Science proves that humans dig music…

PET scan of a normal human brain
PET scan of a normal brain (meaning, not mine). Image via Wikipedia

…though they’re still ironing our the true details of why.

I’ve often wondered why our brain interacts the way it does with music (something God uses to His–and our–benefit; e.g., Deut. 31:19) and have given Bible studies on the topic. The relationship between music and the mind has intrigued scientists, as well, for some time.

Well, new research has demonstrated that music can cause physical reactions in our brain similar to the pleasure derived from eating a good meal or even taking cocaine.

Here’s an article about the study from back in January (as usual, I’m late to the party): “Favourite music evokes same feelings as good food or drugs” (guardian.co.uk, Sunday 9 January 2011).  I think the title is a little misleading, because–as best I can tell–the study wasn’t about favorite music, though I could be wrong.  Subjects did, however, select music that had no lyrics and wasn’t tied to special events, memories, movies, etc., so that the result was music that was enjoyed simply as music and not because it was associated with other things.

In particular, I find it fascinating that Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings is mentioned as the most popular single piece of music in the study and that a techno-pop remix of the adagio was the most popular in the dance, trance, and techno category, as well.

I will admit that I love Barber’s Adagio as well, and I have seen it mentioned before in another science article about the connection between the brain and music, although I can’t recall which article that was — something about certain compositions that fit a particularly logical structure.  I find the piece very moving, though no single piece of music has ever moved me as much as the first time I listened to the Pas de Deux from the Nutcracker, sitting at my desk at my dorm room at Texas A & M.  I’ve always wondered why that piece of music hit me in such a manner, but the effect was real and just a little unnerving.

Anyway, consider reading the short piece in the Guardian website website if you are interested (original study here).  And, a tip of the hat to the “B Good Science Blog” that first alerted me to the study.

5 thoughts on “Science proves that humans dig music…

  1. Hi Mr. Smith,

    Not merely as a shameless plug, but as a resource I think you and others will find interesting and helpful, may I recommend this Blogspot blog by me, devoted to musical topics? While it focuses on Suzanne Haik-Vantoura’s theories regarding biblical cantillation, a sponsor of my work with her theories frequently sends me articles from various sources (including the Guardian, ScienceDaily, the NYT and the like) on more general topics regarding how music relates to the brain, to society, to learning, to history, to prehistory… whatever. In fact there are considerably more articles on said blog regarding siad potpourri than on its alleged speciality. There are also plenty of links.

    http://musicofthebiblerevealed.blogspot.com/

  2. BrianL

    While not quite as erudite of a response as rakkav, I would like to offer this piece. One of my favorites, especially of the adagio style (although I have not looked up the timing on the piece). I would suggest you experience it without the video (at least at first), as that is the way I first enjoyed it, so that you may fully focus or feel the music on its own and not as a tertiary piece. I found it in a quick search and must admit the video is very good also. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEGT83TdxMc
    I look forward to your information as well rakkav.

  3. Steve

    I’d like to refer to he last sentence of your second paragraph. I still like some of those old James Taylor and Carol King songs, because it reminds me of living in Hawaii during highschool. Popular music gets stale after awhile, however.

    Classical music is far more interesting. An Army buddy taught me how classical music worked, years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since. (Both his parents taught classical music at some college).

    I’m especially fond of chamber music and string quartets. The conversational interplay between the various instruments and being able to hear their individual tonality is stunning. Most beautiful music I ever heard.

    And despite Rakkav’s shameless plug 🙂 I would recommend his website as well. I frequently listen to his renditions of biblical music on the Sabbath.

  4. Steven

    ^ For me, certain classical pieces are nice to listen to, but for the most part, they put me to sleep. If you want to talk musicianship and drums (for example), then the great Neil Peart is the greatest of all time. He can play Rock (his day job), Jazz, Tribal, Latin, Electronic or whatever else you can think of, and do so at an equally brilliant level. I challenge anyone to find someone better and/or more diversified. I hope you enjoy this incredible drum solo. It is not only is incredibly musical, but also incredibly complicated.

  5. Amazing drum solo, indeed! And there is certainly good music out there that is not classical (indeed #2). I won’t speculate as to whether this drum solo qualifies as such, though I will say that there are, out there, many performances and creations that are “incredibly musical” and “incredibly complicated,” which would do the opposite of “put [you] to sleep,” and which are performed by artists who are incredibly talented, “brilliant,” and “diversified,” but which are, nonetheless, ungodly in the fruit they produce in the human mind, attitude, and emotions.

    Mr. Peart may be incredibly talented–indeed, a genious–but if listening to his work leaves me in any way whatsoever, however small, further from God then it would have to be rejected. That has to be the question I ask, and it is a subtle question because we are often unaware of what is being produced in us by what we take in (Jeremiah 17:9).

    Our measures of what is worthwhile music must be something other than the talent of the musician and the fact that their music doesn’t put us to sleep — and certainly more than whether or not it is “musical.” After all, all every description you have provided in this comment certainly seems to apply to the very talented Neil Peart but also applies to Satan the devil, a very talented musician, himself (Ezek. 28:13).

    [Of course, I know you don’t disagree with this! I just thought it was an opportune moment to make the point.]

    Thanks for the comment and the video!

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