Getting High on Music

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A recent report on NPR’s website highlighted a fascinating relationship between music and the brain, specifically music’s capacity to trigger the brain to release chemicals that cause the sensation of euphoria. After watching the New York Metropolitan Opera’s performance of Maria Stuarda, author Tom Huizinga writes, “[Mezzo-soprano Joyce] DiDonato’s voice – so luminous, so expressive, so technically assured – entered my ears as if it were some kind of drug. I was immediately in tears – not tears of sadness but of awestruck euphoria. And then, as she pared her voice down to a tiny, shining thread, all the loud New York coughers suddenly ceased their hacking. That pure, hushed tone was all you could hear as DiDonato held nearly 4000 people in the palm of her hand. You could feel it. And you could feel that she knew it, too. And that triggered for me another wave of ecstasy. That’s when I began to tremble – thrilled for DiDonato and thrilled for everyone around me sharing such a blissful moment.”

Huizinga then followed up on his experience by speaking with noted music and brain expert Daniel Levitin of the McGill University. Levitin explained, “Music modulates levels of dopamine in the brain which is a chemical responsible for reward and pleasure… It also modulates serotonin levels and norepinephrine, a stimulant. And in the right combinations, these can give rise to feelings of ecstasy and intense pleasure – almost a sense of being at one with the world.”

Read the complete article here.

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