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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