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What’s your favorite song?

Without knowing you, it would be tough for me to guess, due to the number and diversity of music genres. But it would be safe to assume that your favorite song most likely elicits a strong emotional response.

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

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

The answer, as it turns out, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University discovered a direct link between the elation produced by music and the discharge of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical substance released in the brain that influences emotional regulation, pleasure, and rewards. According to 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 associated with dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less important than the psychological reaction it creates. This leads to some powerful implications.

Let’s take another look at your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or created a strong emotional reaction? If yes, you’ve just identified one of the best 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 realize these positive emotional reactions? The chief insight from the above research is that it is dependent completely on your preferences. The music can be happy, gloomy, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or hip-hop. The trick is taking stock of the emotional reactions you receive from various songs and genres.

Once you know how you react viscerally to specific songs, you can utilize those songs to elicit the desired emotional reaction, producing the optimal emotional state for each situation.

For instance, if rock ‘n’ roll gets you pumped up and inspired for a workout, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica CD while heading to the gym. Conversely, if you’re hoping to unwind after a stressful 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 directly to your hearing aids. This puts you in a unique position to reap the benefits of this research.

Simply dial in your favorite songs on your phone or portable device, send 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 specific moods for you?