Cognitive Sound: Enter, Dopamine!  

Ever wondered why you get goosebumps when listening to your favourite music? Or just down right feel happy? Well it’s a fascinating and rather complex process that occurs in the brain; the process of listening to music that you have a strong emotional connection with automatically triggers a strong emotional response within the brain; which in turn releases the natural “feel good” chemical called Dopamine.

The release of Dopamine by the brain also occurs for other various activities, such as eating deliciousDopamine, the good stuff food, taking illicit drugs and receiving (or spending) money. It is in no way a bad chemical, however it is something that the body and brain usually gets addicted to. Think of it the same way a person who exercises enjoys the release of Endorphins into their system, which is also another “feel good” chemical. Without exercise the individual can sometimes feel “flat”. To put simply, Dopamine is responsible for that happy feeling you get when listening to music.

Now for the goosebumps, there’s an interesting and very archaic (I’m talking caveman era) reason that mammalians get goosebumps and that is in part due to the fight-or-flight response. In brief, the fight-or-flight response is a moment where the subject is in danger (or stressed) by a predator and has the options of either holding ground and fighting (Fight) or fleeing (Flight). Are you thinking, “I’m not being attacked by a sabretooth when I listen to my favourite album, what the shit are you talking about?!”...Me too! But I was getting to a point, and that point is that research has shown that in humans we have a broader range of emotional responses which can cause the Pilomotor Reflex to occur a.k.a. goosebumps. This reaction is quite different to the original purpose of goosebumps; as Dopamine is released it changes the reason why we get goosebumps from being in danger or stressed to pleasure. This occurrence is ultimately due to the positive stimulus within the brain caused by listening to music you love!

Now ask yourself, does this mean I can exercise and listen to good music and be as high as a kite 24/7? Absolutely!


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