I've recently listened to a podcast, "The music in your brain", in which Dr. Daniel Levitin suggests that:

  • Soothing music can trigger release of oxytocin
  • Sad music triggers release of prolactin
  • An unknown kind of music triggers release of dopamine.

This may be related to my previous question about "psychoactive music"

Is there evidence to support the claim that music can trigger the release of specific neurotransmitters in the brain?

  • $\begingroup$ See also my answer to "Can music be addictive ?" $\endgroup$
    – azam
    Feb 20, 2016 at 6:02
  • $\begingroup$ To verify such claims, you can do an psychological experiment or undergo brain scanning procedure. $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2016 at 4:46
  • $\begingroup$ as discussed here: cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/15199/…, asking if something causes a certain type of neurotransmitter to be released is a very poorly defined question. much better to ask how music affects activity in particular brain areas. $\endgroup$
    – honi
    Jun 8, 2016 at 21:30

1 Answer 1


Music is known as a form of an abstract stimulus, which can arouse feelings of euphoria, similar to tangible rewards that involve the striatal (corpus striatum) dopamine system.

In a study, published in nature neuroscience, researchers used the neurochemical specificity of 11C Raclopride positron emission tomography scanning, combined with psychophysiological measures of autonomic nervous system activity, to find endogenous dopamine release in the striatum at peak emotional arousal during music listening. To examine the time course of dopamine release, they 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.

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Music characterized by genres and musical elements evoke distinct patterns of messenger production.Music of Johann Strauss caused rises in atrial filling fraction and atrial natriuretic peptide and falls in cortisol and tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA). Prolactin, cortisol, noradrenaline, and t-PA concentrations decreased after listening to the music of H.W. Henze. Ravi Shankar’s music resulted in lowered concentrations of cortisol, noradrenaline, and t-PA.Listening to techno music was found to alter levels of b-endorphin, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), norepinephrine , growth hormone, prolactin, and cortisol in healthy people.Critically ill patients who listened to Mozart’s slow piano sonatas had increased growth hormone and decreased interleukin (IL)6 levels.

From the neurochemistry of music by Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel J. Levitin, Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, QC H3A 1B1, Canada

enter image description here Disclaimer: I will keep editing my answer, this is just a start!


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  • Sloboda, J. & Juslin, P.N. Psychological perspectives on music and emotion. in Music and Emotion: Theory and Research (ed. Sloboda, J.) 71–104 (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001).
  • Möckel M, Röcker L, Stoörk T. Immediate physiological responses of healthy volunteers to different types of music: cardiovascular,hormonal and mental changes. Eur J Appl Physiol. 1994;68(6):451-459.
  • Gerra G, Zaimovic A, Franchini D, et al. Neuroendocrine Responses of healthy volunteers to ‘techno-music’: relationships with personality traits and emotional state. Int J Psychophysiol.1998;28(1):99-111.

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