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January 9th, 2011

Article: “Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music”

On January 9th, 2011, Nature Neuroscience published  Valorie Salimpoor (et al) article entitled “Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music”. Conducted under the supervision of Prof. Robert Zatorre, BRAMS co-director, this research is studying dopamine release during music listening.

Valorie N Salimpoor, Mitchel Benovoy, Kevin Larcher, Alain Dagher& Robert J Zatorre

Nature Neuroscience 14, 257–262 (2011) doi:10.1038/nn.2726



“Music, an abstract stimulus, can arouse feelings of euphoria and craving, similar to tangible rewards that involve the striatal dopaminergic system. Using the neurochemical specificity of [11C]raclopride positron emission tomography scanning, combined with psychophysiological measures of autonomic nervous system activity, we found endogenous dopamine release in the striatum at peak emotional arousal during music listening. To examine the time course of dopamine release, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging with the same stimuli and listeners, and found a functional dissociation: the caudate was more involved during the anticipation and the nucleus accumbens was more involved during the experience of peak emotional responses to music. These results indicate that intense pleasure in response to music can lead to dopamine release in the striatal system. Notably, the anticipation of an abstract reward can result in dopamine release in an anatomical pathway distinct from that associated with the peak pleasure itself. Our results help to explain why music is of such high value across all human societies.”

To read the full scientific article, please click here (the article is not available anymore).

Related articles (general audience) – available in French only

D’où viennent les frissons de plaisir en écoutant de la musique?  (cyberpresse.ca, Agence France-Presse, Paris)  (L’article n’est plus disponible)

La musique est une drogue (c’est officiel)” (cyberpresse.ca, Marc Cassivi) (L’article n’est plus disponible)


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BRAMS (International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research) is a unique laboratory dedicated to research excellence in the study of music and auditory cognition with a focus on neuroscience. BRAMS is located in Montreal and jointly affiliated with the University of Montreal and McGill University.


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