The importance of music in people’s lives is enormous: it inspires us, gives us strength and helps to go through loss and grief. Why do we react emotionally to its sounds? Psychologists have an explanation. Most impressive is the music that is deceiving our expectations, alternates the expected with the unexpected. Strong feelings are caused by the release of dopamine. It is released when we recognize some certain structures in the music; and it does not matter if it is happy or sad.
Neuropsychologist Robert Zattore and his colleagues from McGill University (Canada) have found that music, which causes intense emotions, triggers the production of the neuromediator dopamine in the brain centers associated with pleasure and reward. Chocolate, sex and alcohol have the same effect on humans.
The linguist Steven Pinker believes that the role of music in human life – a kind of dessert, a nice side effect of language development. At the same time, the latest research suggests that playing an instrument or just listening to the works of the great composers are able to change the structure of the brain and to keep its functions be active longer.
And yet, first and foremost music in human life is a source of the deepest emotions. But exactly how does it cause them? Why do we listen to some records rather quietly, making other things – for example, cooking a meal or doing the cleaning – but the other ones incredibly impress us, resulting in literally an exciting thrill?
“All music is a struggle between tension and relaxation, – explains a musicologist Duane Shinn. – If music consisted only of a harmonious combination of sounds and melodies, it would be boring. If tensions were present all the time, it would be difficult to understand. Of course, there are such kinds of music: take at least a free jazz or special compositions for relaxation. But why the music has such a strong effect on us – it is because of transitions from one state to another. “
This paper describes the keys of influence on the human emotions in more detail.