Take the 2-minute tour ×
Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. It's 100% free, no registration required.

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?

share|improve this question

1 Answer 1

Ethnomusicology is an academic field encompassing various approaches to the study of music (broadly defined) that emphasize its cultural, social, material, cognitive, biological, and other dimensions or contexts instead of or in addition to its isolated sound component or any particular repertoire.


Finding a psychoactive music would have to be through trial and error based on patient reporting as ethnicity does not elucidate ethnomusicology neither would such a survey result in a permanent result.

Music is a trait of culture. Culture being diverse there are no one set of musical standards which will elicit the same emotional response universally in people in a multicultural society. This is much in the simular method that microexpressions do not work catholicly.

Through a series of studies, Paul Ekman found a high agreement across members of diverse Western and Eastern literate cultures on selecting emotional labels that fit facial expressions. Expressions he found to be universal included those indicating anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. Findings on contempt are less clear, though there is at least some preliminary evidence that this emotion and its expression are universally recognized.

Ekman and Friesen then demonstrated that certain emotions were exhibited with very specific display rules, culture-specific prescriptions about who can show which emotions to whom and when. These display rules could explain how cultural differences may conceal the universal effect of expression.

-wikipedia microexpression

Moreover culture is fluid and changes many times during our life. We experience culture changes through the outlined process of culture shock when we move to different locations. We develop in our cultural skill based on psychology as well. Desires for autonomy (being an individual) and conformity (being part of a larger group) change as we age. At one point in my life I would have despised Please Don't Go by Mike Poser. It would have elicited absolute revolution from me but now it is one of my favorite songs. As my norms change so did the way music affects me.

Researchers at Cambridge University have identified five broad categories of musical taste during a person's life.

They believe humans use music to experiment with identity and define themselves and then as a social vehicle to establish a group and find a mate, before using it to express their intellect, status and greater emotional understanding.

The study suggests that unless people take the Who's advice and die before they get old, their taste in music will probably change to meet their social and psychological needs.

Researchers said the study, published in the journal of Personality and Social Psychology, is the first to 'comprehensively document' the ways people engage with music 'from adolescence to middle age'.

-Rock of Ages: Taste in music DOES change over a lifetime - and even punk-loving teens will listen to classical music in middle age

-The do re mi's of everyday life: The structure and personality correlates of music preferences.

Also see Brainwave audio recordings and beta waves: how do they affect positivity?

Also see Is there psychoactive music?

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.