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What’s your favorite song?

Without knowing you, it would be hard for me to guess, due to the large number and variety of music genres. But it would be safe to assume that your favorite song probably brings about an intense emotional response.

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

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

The answer, as it turns out, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University found a direct connection between the elation generated by music and the discharge of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical released in the brain that has an effect on emotional regulation, pleasure, and rewards. According to 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 emotional response it brings about. This leads to some potent implications.

Let’s revisit 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 best ways to release more dopamine into your system, which is a brain hack for positivity and motivation.

So what type of music should you listen to realize these positive emotional responses? The key insight from the aforementioned research is that it depends entirely on your preferences. The music can be happy, gloomy, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or hip-hop. The secret is taking stock of the emotional reactions you receive from different songs and genres.

Once you know how you react viscerally to particular songs, you can make use of those songs to elicit the sought after emotional reaction, producing the ideal emotional state for each scenario.

As an example, if heavy metal gets you pumped up and inspired for a gym session, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica record while heading to the gym. On the other hand, if you’re looking to unwind 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 take advantage of this research.

Simply dial in your favorite songs 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 responses or specific moods for you?

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