Scientists have for a long time been fascinated by human’s love for music. Part of the reason is that music does not appear to be critically important for our survival like food, water, and shelter.
Yet music has played a role for centuries in many of man’s most important events such as birth, death, ceremonies for rain, or victory in battle. More recent studies show that people rank music as one of the top ten things they find pleasurable along with food, art, and money. The apparent connection between dopamine and listening to music can help us understands how or why it triggers motivation.
There have been several theories that have been proposed on the evolutionary origin of music. Some theories suggest that it was a part of the evolutionary prerequisites of our increasingly advanced cognitive brain. That is, recognition of music may have demonstrated to potential mates our inkling towards intelligence.
However, another theory suggests that our ability to appreciate music, did not develop due to its evolutionary advantage, but as a consequence of other advantageous cognitive pathways that developed in the process. That is to say, that as our brains developed a greater capacity to interpret the world, music began to become increasingly pleasurable.
The bottom-line is that all these theories support the idea that music activates underlying pleasure pathways. Neuroscientists have found that dopamine levels can increase significantly when we listen to music.
Mental and Physical Performance
Dopamine released when listening to music has many positive benefits that can help you boost physical and mental performance. Top athletes are known to listen to music during their workouts which help to keep them “fired up”. As the “motivation molecule” central to our pleasure-reward system, music can help boost performance during training, increase concentration during studies, as well as work for longer without feeling lethargic.