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What happens in your brain when you listen to your favorite music?

What happens in your brain when you listen to your favorite music?

December 4, 2020

It is more or less easy to predict what kind of movies will please most of the audience, and it is not complicated to do the same with books or video games.

However, with music it seems that this does not happen so much: we all have musical pieces in mind that, although they do not look anything like what we usually prefer to listen to, they trap us. That's why it's curious that favourite songs , in all their variety and whatever they may be, produce a similar effect in the brain of the listener.

In fact, music can define, in a certain way, how we are and how we think, as we saw in the articles:

"What music do intelligent people listen to?" Y,,,


"Music and personality: what link do they have?"

Music and memory

Thanks to brain activity monitoring systems, nowadays we know a little more about what happens in our nervous system when listening to songs that we like. The results show typical activation patterns and that are repeated every time you go through that experience.

No matter the gender or practically the duration : the music that we find enjoyable has certain and relatively predictable effects on the patterns of neuronal activity in our body.

What happens in our brain when we listen to our favorite music?

Specific, strong electrical connections are established between the auditory areas of the brain and the hippocampus , a part related to memory and emotionality. That means that the neural processes that a fan of Turbonegro are very similar to those that occur in the head of an amateur Chopin when both are listening to what they like, no matter how different the vibrations that reach the eardrums.


The finding would also help explain why totally different pieces of music can trigger very similar emotional states in different people and the role of music in the remembrance of memories. In addition, it is further evidence of how closely related memories and emotions are linked to the moment of recovery.

However, the fundamental of the study is that it shows how our brain is able to turn over any series of sound stimuli to awaken moods to some extent unpredictable, related to the musical taste of the listener. In this sense, we have also seen that we are capable of making music something pleasant by identifying with what we hear relating it to our memories and thus helping to give them a satisfactory meaning or to use it for better regulate our emotions .


Different stimuli, same result

Of course, every moment has its potential "ideal music" and we probably would not get the same results if we forced someone to listen to their favorite subject for longer than desired, for example, or at a time when they do not want to hear anything.

See, for example, The Mechanical Orange. However, in most cases there seems to be a paradox that very complex and changing processes (adapting the brain for the enjoyment of practically any musical piece) result in a stereotypical and predictable pattern of activation. Is a test of the brain's ability to reach the same results from different start situations , and memory plays a fundamental role in this process.

Beyond laboratory experiments, it is clear that the sensation of listening to music of our liking is unique and to some extent indescribable. However, if we raise the hood of our nervous system and observe what happens in it during this experience, we will realize that after such subjective sensations there is a network of neurons acting with sense.

Bibliographic references:

  • Kawakami, A., Furukawa, K., Katahira, K. and Okanoya, Kazuo. (2013). Sad music induces pleasant emotion. Frontirs in Psychology, 4 (311).
  • Van den Tol, A.J.M., Edwards, J. (2014). Listening to sad music in adverse situations: How music selection strategies relate to self-regulatory goals, listening effects, and mood enhancement. Psychology of Music.
  • Wilkins, R. W., Hodges, D.A., Laurienti, P.J., Steen, M. and Burdette, J.H. (2014) .Network Science and the Effects of Music Preference on Functional Brain Connectivity: From Beethoven to Eminem. Scientific Reports, 4. doi: 10.1038 / srep06130

Exploring the Impact of Music on Brain Function (December 2020).


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