woman listening to music smiling

What’s your favorite song?

Without knowing you, it would be difficult for me to guess, due to the large number and diversity of music genres. But it would be safe to assume that your favorite song probably elicits a strong emotional reaction.

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

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

The answer, as it turns out, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University discovered a direct connection 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 influences 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 linked to dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less significant than the emotional response it produces. This leads to some potent implications.

Let’s revisit your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or provided a strong emotional reaction? If yes, you’ve just identified one of the best ways to release more dopamine into your system, which is a life hack for positivity and motivation.

So what kind of music should you go with to realize these positive emotional responses? The chief insight from the aforementioned research is that it depends entirely on your tastes. The music can be joyful, gloomy, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or hip-hop. The trick is taking stock of the emotional reactions you receive from different songs and genres.

Once you understand how you respond viscerally to specific songs, you can utilize those songs to arouse the desired emotional reaction, producing the ideal emotional state for each situation.

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 CD while heading to the gym. On the other hand, 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 make the most of this research.

Simply dial in your favorite tracks on your phone or portable device, send it wirelessly to your hearing aids, and let the dopamine start flowing.


By the way, what is your favorite song? And which songs or genres bring about strong reactions or particular moods for you?