woman listening to music smiling

What’s your favorite song?

Without knowing you, it would be almost impossible for me to guess, due to the large number and range of music styles. But it would be safe for me to assume that your favorite song probably brings about a strong emotional reaction.

When people describe their favorite music, they tend to describe it as sometimes giving them “the chills.” You’ve probably observed this with your favorite music. But the interesting part is that experiencing this phenomenon is not dependent on any one genre of music.

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

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

Dopamine is a chemical released in the brain that affects 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 response 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 intense emotional response? If so, you’ve just discovered one of the most effective means to release more dopamine into your system, which is a brain hack for positivity and inspiration.

So what genre of music should you listen to attain these positive emotional responses? The chief insight from the above research is that it depends solely on your tastes. The music can be happy, gloomy, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or hip-hop. The trick is taking stock of the emotional responses you receive from different songs and genres.

Once you know how you respond viscerally to specific songs, you can utilize those songs to arouse the sought after emotional reaction, producing the most effective emotional state for each scenario.

As an example, if rock ‘n’ roll 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. In contrast, if you’re hoping to relax 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 straight to your hearing aids. This puts you in an exceptional position to take advantage 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 specific moods for you?