Sticking your favorite tune on and having a good old relax feels mighty good for a reason, with new research underlining previous suspicions that the mood-enhancing qualities of your curated greatest hits collection kicks in the same chemical reward system as binging on chocolate and, er, taking opiates.
By measuring the responses of listeners, researchers suggest there's a two-pronged response system in play – part one is the dopamine that kicks in from the anticipation of whacking on your favorite track, followed by a harder reward phase similar to the pleasure one receives when a opiate-like hit like heroin comes in. But not quite so strong, else all we'd ever do would be lie in bed all day wearing headphones the size of car tyres and listening to 'West End Girls (opens in new tab)'.
The clever part of this latest research (opens in new tab) concerns efforts into the blocking of these responses. Not because society hates us and wants to stop us being able to enjoy music, but because learning to control these reward systems might lead to better methods of helping people kick the genuine opiates and more easily cap the number of supermarket cookies they eat in an evening.
The fun-blocking part of the experiment involved using known opioid receptor blocker naltrexone while some students listened to their favorite tracks.
The researchers found that those with naltrexone in their systems displayed less of a physical response to their top tunes in terms of moving their facial muscles in a pleasurable rocking-out/raving-up gurn, while slider controls they were told to move in response to how much pleasure they were experiencing also showing more of a deadened effect thanks to the blocking drugs. Hence scientists believe that hearing tunes we like does the same thing to us as the odd bit of darknet hard drugs.
In short, the good news is that there might soon be a chemical we can put into the water supplies of schools to stop the children liking Katy Perry, then coming home and ruining their dads' YouTube algorithm selections with their terrible modern pop choices.
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