woman listening to music smiling

What’s your favorite song?

Without knowing you, it would be tough for me to guess, due to the large number and variety of music genres. But it would be safe for me to assume that your favorite song most likely elicits an intense emotional reaction.

When people describe their favorite music, they often describe it as occasionally giving them “the chills.” You’ve most likely experienced this with your favorite music. But the interesting part is that experiencing this phenomenon is not dependent on any one kind of music.

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute had participants bring in their favorite music. Even though each participant depicted an intense emotional response, the music genres themselves ranged from classical to jazz to punk. With so much variety, what was responsible for this underlying emotional reaction?

The answer, as it so happens, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University discovered a direct connection between the elation generated by music and the discharge of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine is a chemical substance released in the brain that affects emotional regulation, pleasure, and rewards. As reported by Richard Depue, professor at Cornell University: “When our dopamine system is activated, we are more positive, excited and eager to go after goals or rewards, such as food, sex, money, education or professional achievements.”

So music is linked to dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less important than the psychological reaction it creates. This leads to some compelling implications.

Let’s return to your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or created a powerful emotional reaction? If so, you’ve just discovered one of the best ways to release more dopamine into your system, which is a life hack for positivity and motivation.

So what kind of music should you go with to attain these positive emotional reactions? The chief insight from the above research is that it depends solely on your preferences. The music can be happy, sad, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or rap. The trick is taking stock of the emotional responses you receive from various songs and genres.

Once you understand how you respond viscerally to particular songs, you can utilize those songs to arouse the sought after emotional reaction, producing the ideal emotional state for each scenario.

For instance, if rock ‘n’ roll gets you pumped up and motivated for a workout, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica CD while heading to the gym. Conversely, if you’re hoping to relax after a hectic day at the office, perhaps the best of Beethoven is the way to go.

And last, if you have hearing loss, consider that the latest hearing aid technology that can stream music wirelessly from portable devices directly to your hearing aids. This puts you in a unique position to make the most of this research.

Simply dial in your favorite songs on your phone or portable device, send it wirelessly to your hearing aids, and let the dopamine start flowing.


By the way, what is your favorite song? And which songs or music genres bring about strong reactions or specific moods for you?