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Researchers have discovered that ‘musical pleasure activates some of the reward processing circuits as other “basal” forms of pleasure do, like food or sex’, as Emma Betuel reports on Inverse. For the brain, reward equals survival; so this gives music a central importance in the human evolutionary process.

An article on brain scans of macaques vs humans had already suggested this in July 2019 by demonstrating that the brains of the more evoluted species had developed a preference for harmonic sounds compared to noise.

Music can recruit an ancestral circuit dedicated to motivation and involved in survival function, although we still don’t know what type of survival function. Scientists suspect it may be related to group emotional dynamics (you can read the original article here.)

Music could actually motivate you to do things. Another very interesting aspect proved by Salimpoor et al. is that ‘intense pleasure in response to music can lead to dopamine release in the striatal system’, which is associated with movement and mediating rewarding experiences. ‘Notably, the anticipation of an abstract reward can result in dopamine release in an anatomical pathway distinct from that associated with the peak pleasure itself’.

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