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What’s your favorite song?

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

When people talk about their favorite music, they frequently describe it as occasionally giving them “the chills.” You’ve probably experienced this with your favorite music. But the intriguing part is that experiencing this sensation is not dependent on any one kind of music.

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

The answer, as it so happens, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University uncovered a direct link between the elation created by music and the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine is a chemical substance released in the brain that has an effect on 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 tied to dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less important than the emotional reaction it produces. This leads to some powerful implications.

Let’s take another look at your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or produced a powerful emotional response? If so, you’ve just discovered one of the most effective methods to release more dopamine into your system, which is a life hack for positivity and inspiration.

So what genre of music should you listen to attain these positive emotional responses? The fundamental insight from the above research is that it is dependent entirely on your preferences. The music can be happy, sad, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or rap. The secret is taking inventory of the emotional reactions you receive from different songs and genres.

Once you know how you react viscerally to certain songs, you can make use of those songs to arouse the desired emotional reaction, producing the most effective emotional state for each scenario.

For instance, if rock ‘n’ roll gets you pumped up and inspired for a gym session, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica CD while heading to the gym. In contrast, if you’re trying to loosen up after a busy 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 an exceptional position to reap the benefits of this research.

Simply dial in your favorite tracks on your phone or portable device, deliver 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 particular moods for you?