What happens in your brain when you listen to music?

Jan. 19, 2018

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You probably already know that you love some songs and hate others, or that listening to music can give you chills or make you cry.

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But what’s actually going on inside your brain when you listen to music?

Luis Domingo/Mic

Luis Domingo/Mic

It turns out that music enters your ears and then hits all four of your brain’s major lobes in different ways.

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And music doesn’t travel through your brain on a linear or sequential path — a lot of what’s happening when you process music happens all at the same time.

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But one of the first parts of the brain to process music is the auditory cortex. It works with the cerebellum to break music into parts, like pitch and timbre.

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The cerebellum, in turn, is connected to the amygdala, the brain’s emotion center, and the frontal lobe, which is involved in impulse control.

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Music is also processed by the mesolimbic pathway, or “reward pathway,” which is involved in the transmission of dopamine.

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That explains why music can give you a dopamine rush similar to the ones that come from having sex or eating a delicious meal.

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Music with a “groove” has been shown to activate the motor cortex, making us feel the urge to move and dance.

Luis Domingo/Mic

Luis Domingo/Mic

Music affects the visual cortex, too. It also has the power to evoke memories, which are stored throughout the brain.

Luis Domingo/Mic

Luis Domingo/Mic

Listening to music engages so many parts of your brain that it’s a mental (and emotional) workout.

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And there’s still a lot more to learn about the complex relationship between music and our brains.

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