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Music stimulates brain circuits

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The ability of music to cause feelings of joy and pleasure in most listeners is unknown, but how it makes people feel those positive emotions is still a subject of scientific research; scientists do not know exactly why those feelings are associated with listening to music.

Previous studies have shown that the sense of pleasure associated with listening to music may be triggered by a set of cerebral neural circuits that are involved in the brain's assessment of incentives and rewards, meaning that music activates those circuits in a way that makes a person feel happy, just as if they received a piece of chocolate or served them good food.

In a study published by JNeurosci today, Monday, March 29, researchers tried to confirm that hypothesis and study why music stimulates those circuits and monitors their activity while listening to music.

To confirm the hypothesis, the researchers applied transcranial magnetic stimulation to the prefrontal cortex of the afternoon left, as also used functional magnetic resonance imaging in 17 participants from both males and females.

As researchers sought to determine the causal role of these neural circuits using non-surgical brain stimulation that boosts the activity of neurons in the brain through pharmacological, electrical, or magnetic stimuli, that group - a pop fan-listened to a collection of popular songs, while the research team measured brain activity using fMRI, before the examination, the team indirectly triggered or inhibited the brain's reward circuit via transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Behaviorally, the researchers found that arousing those circuits enhanced participants ' sense of pleasure when listening to music while inhibiting the circuit itself reduced the effect of music on the psyche.

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These circuits are behaviorally responsible for the positive emotions associated with listening to music, and participants self-reported" increased feelings of pleasure and joy after stimulation of the brain circuits," says Ernst Nas Herrero, a cognitive neuroscience researcher and co-author of the study.

Although there are no obvious biological benefits to listening, humans love music, and neuroimaging techniques highlight the similarities between how reward circuits in the brain process music and other rewards such as food, money, and alcohol.

Herrero adds: the results of the study revealed that interactions between auditory and reward regions-that is, exchange of activity - drive us to feel happy when listening to music, and certain brain circuits are involved in reward processing, but scientists have long thought that reward systems are activated with biologically related pleasures, such as food or sex.

We didn't know if these circuits were actually causing the pleasure we might experience with listening to music as well or were they just responding as a result of that pleasure? The study revealed a causal link between music and the brain circuits responsible for the reward system.

The results also revealed that the rewarding aspects of music depend on the connection between the nucleus accumbens-the region responsible for the reward system - and the high-level cortical regions involved in advanced auditory processing.

A large body of research has shown that music is an effective tool for modifying mood, regulating emotions, reducing stress, anxiety, or depression, and also helping to create and strengthen social bonds; for example, some authors of the current study conducted a separate study to verify the benefit of listening to music during the first wave of the covid-19 pandemic by collecting data from more than Psychological distress associated with the shutdown and the covid-19 crisis.

Significantly, the hours participants spent in music-related activities during lockdown were associated with decreased depressive symptoms, mediated by the ability of music to evoke strong feelings of pleasure, and the results of the current study-which lasted for a full five years - are consistent with the results of the previous study that music is an important means of improving well-being.

These studies are in addition to our understanding of brain function and how it deals with complex and abstract stimuli such as music, and may also have potential clinical implications; many emotional disorders such as addiction and depression are characterized by impaired regulation of reward circuitry, Therefore, demonstrating the ability of music to modify the reward system opens up new horizons for future music-based interventions in situations where these circuits may need to be regulated, such as addiction and depression treatment.

© 2021 Salah Zouggari

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