Listening to your favorite music can be extremely relaxing and pleasurable. But have you ever wondered why music makes you feel so good? Recent studies have shown that music triggers the production of your brain’s natural opioids—natural chemicals responsible for feelings of pleasure similar to those experienced during intimacy, eating, or taking recreational drugs. The underlying link between music and opioids could be a breakthrough towards overcoming numerous health issues such as addiction, stress, fatigue, and severe cognitive and physical disabilities. Further, music is shown to have a strong effect on our emotions which could prove extremely useful in alleviating various mental health conditions, including social anxiety and depression.
New research has revealed that opioids naturally produced in the brain play a major role in musical pleasure. The findings were published in Nature, a scientific journal, and the study performed by researchers at McGill University revealed that music stimulates the same region of the brain that experiences pleasure from recreational drugs, intimacy, and food. According to Daniel Levitin, senior author of the study, this is one of the first findings providing proof that the brain’s natural opioids are actually responsible for musical pleasure. Previous research from the Levitin lab and other research groups used neuroimaging to map out regions of the brain that are active while listening to music. However, previous results only alluded to some involvement of the brain’s natural opioid system.
To further understand the connection between music and opioids, Levitin’s research group at McGill University used Naltrexone—a drug commonly prescribed for addiction—to temporarily block the opioid receptors of study participants. The volunteers were 20 healthy university students that were not taking any other medication or drugs at the time. Blood testing was performed throughout the study to ensure no adverse effects occurred while taking Naltrexone. The response of participants when they listened to music was observed and it was found that after taking the drug the opioid-blocking drug, participants could not derive any pleasure from music—the exact response hypothesized by the researchers.
The anecdotes of study participants were intriguing. Several participants reported that listening to music did not feel pleasurable while their opioid receptors were blocked. Other participants reported that although they knew the music was good, it did not give them any feelings of pleasure. There were some concerns in relation to the safety of the drug, but fortunately participants did not experience any adverse effects. And the study was able to successfully demonstrate the connection between music and opioids.
These research findings have now definitively linked the experience of musical pleasure with natural opioids produced in your brain—in a region of the brain also responsible for the pleasure derived from intimacy, food, and recreational drugs. Therefore, music stimulates the pleasure region of your brain and listening to music may help minimize stress levels.
To manage stress, your body is equipped with the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response system, a delicate network of various organs and six circuits, including the neuroaffect circuit, functioning in close coordination. The adrenal glands—two walnut shaped glands located above your kidneys—are an important part of your stress response system. When your body is confronted with stress, your NEM system signals to your adrenal glands to secrete more of the anti-stress hormone cortisol. However, when your stress levels are constantly high and stress is unrelenting, your adrenals can become overburdened and cortisol production decreases. This ultimately affects your body’s natural stress-fighting ability and increases your chances of developing Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).
When you frequently experience extreme fatigue along with additional symptoms, including anxiety, brain fog, insomnia, low energy levels, difficulty waking up, low concentration levels, cravings for salty and fatty foods, stubborn weight gain, and constipation, this could indicate Adrenal Fatigue. Reducing your exposure to stressors is a vital step toward allowing your adrenals to recover as well as preventing your AFS symptoms from getting worse. Listening to soothing music before going to bed can help relax your mind and ensure better sleep.
Managing stress is the key to leading a healthy life. The stress response is initiated in the brain. Your neuro-affective circuit—part of the NEM stress response system—includes the brain, autonomic nervous system, central nervous system, and gut, and is responsible for controlling cognition, mood, and sleep. Any imbalance in your neuro-affective circuit can lead to mood swings, lack of concentration, anxiety, brain fog, and insomnia, which tend to become more prevalent as your stress levels increase. This research, revealing the deep connection between music and opioids, suggests that music may have a strong effect on emotion.
Since music and opioids are linked, music may be able to provide an effective recovery tool by relieving stress as well as addiction. Listening to music is a pleasurable experience with soothing effects on your brain. It is important to note that unlike music, random noise does not sync with your body’s natural vibratory frequency. Exposure to this kind of noise can actually pollute your body’s extracellular matrix, disrupt your mental tranquility, and cause imbalances in your neuro-affective circuit, leading to inflammation. This in turn may trigger your stress response system and activate your adrenal glands. Prolonged exposure to disruptive sound can lead to overexertion of your adrenal glands thereby increasing your chances of developing Adrenal Fatigue.
With music and opioids closely linked, it’s clear that listening to soothing music can produce remarkable healing effects for your brain and body. Enjoying pleasant musical notes can induce a sense of tranquility thus making you feel more relaxed. Therefore, if you suffer from symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue, you can greatly benefit from listening to musical. Furthermore, research has linked music with healing abilities and it may reduce the need for hypnotic approaches and tranquilizers that are frequently prescribed for anxiety and cognitive decline.
Here are some of the various ways music can help you feel better.
Research has shown that music has the ability to elicit an immediate emotional response. When you listen to music, your autonomic nervous system exerts direct physiological effects creating a deep sense of pleasure. Moreover, playing musical instruments involves tactile and auditory stimulation, which can also offer a state of tranquility. According to studies conducted by the Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Applied Biosystems, playing musical instruments can help reduce the negative effects of stress.
Thus, music may be an effective therapy for improving various stress-related disorders including anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Music may also prove extremely beneficial as a therapeutic tool for people with severe physical or cognitive impairment, such as social anxiety, mental handicaps, or late-stage chronic illnesses.
Studies have shown that music can help improve the quality of life in people with cognitive disorders, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. Listening to or playing music has been shown to help correct depressive syndromes and mood disorders by relaxing the brain. Further, music training can improve brain health. Interestingly, reports have revealed that individuals trained in music are less likely to develop dementia.
Music is now being used to enhance healing in people undergoing cardiac procedures. Music can positively influence the release of stress hormones that are helpful in immune, cardiac, neurological, and respiratory functions involved in the healing process. Studies on cardiac patients suggest music may help lower anxiety levels both pre-surgery and post-surgery by inducing relaxation.
Compared to a state of relaxation, a stressed-out mind can be less productive. You’ll be amazed by just how much listening to music can help keep you focused. Switching on some good music during work can help relax your mind making difficult and tedious tasks more enjoyable. The key is selecting the right type of music. For more mentally demanding tasks, listening to some gentle instrumental music without lyrics may be less distracting.
New findings demonstrate the link between music and opioids. Research has revealed that music stimulates areas of your brain that produce natural opioids—the same region of the brain responsible for pleasure experienced from recreational drugs, intimacy, and food. During the study, participants no longer found their favorite songs to be pleasurable when the brain’s opioid receptors were blocked by a drug. These natural opioids make you feel better, more relaxed, and alleviate stress. As a therapeutic tool, music can be combined with improved nutrition, physical exercise, psychological counseling, and social support to remarkably alleviate various health issues, including stress, depression, addiction, social anxiety, fatigue, and physical and cognitive impairments.
© Copyright 2019 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Studies show that music and opioids are linked. Music stimulates the brain’s natural opioids producing a positive effect on your emotions thereby creating an effective therapeutic tool. Whereas most noise does not have a rhythm and may disrupt the vibratory frequency your cells causing negative effects, music is organized sound that naturally syncs with your internal vibratory frequency giving you pleasure.