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What’s your favorite song?

Without knowing you, it would be almost impossible for me to guess, due to the number and diversity of music styles. But it would be safe for me to assume that your favorite song most likely brings about an intense emotional reaction.

When people describe their favorite music, they typically describe it as sometimes giving them “the chills.” You’ve most likely experienced this with your favorite music. But the interesting part is that experiencing this feeling is not dependent on any one genre of music.

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

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 substance released in the brain that has an effect on 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 tied to dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less important than the emotional response it produces. This leads to some potent implications.

Let’s take another look at your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or provided a powerful emotional reaction? If yes, you’ve just identified one of the most effective ways to release more dopamine into your system, which is a brain hack for positivity and inspiration.

So what genre of music should you listen to achieve these positive emotional responses? The major insight from the above research is that it is dependent entirely on your preferences. The music can be happy, sad, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or rap. The trick is taking stock of the emotional reactions you obtain from various songs and genres.

Once you know how you respond viscerally to certain songs, you can make use of those songs to bring about the desired emotional reaction, producing the ideal emotional state for each scenario.

As an example, if rock ‘n’ roll gets you pumped up and inspired for a gym session, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica album while heading to the gym. In contrast, if you’re trying to unwind after a hectic day at the office, perhaps the best of Beethoven is the approach to take.

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 reap the benefits of this research.

Simply dial in your favorite tracks on your phone or portable device, deliver 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?