You know when you hear a particularly great song and it makes you feel so. damn. satisfied—like itching a scratch you didn't know existed? So you play it again to get the same feeling, then again, and again until your roommate threatens to chuck your speakers out the apartment?
Well, researchers have figured out why you get so hooked on certain songs. Listening to music stimulates the same opioids (or pleasure chemicals) your brain makes when you're having sex, taking feel-good drugs, or eating delicious food, according to a new study from McGill University in Canada. Researchers gave subjects doses of naltrexone—an opioid blocker that’s often used to help treat addiction—then played their favorite songs. The once-terrific tunes no longer produced any of the same feelings of pleasure, the subjects reported.
“The findings, themselves, were what we hypothesized,” said study author and cognitive psychologist Daniel Levitin, Ph.D. Their previous studies used brain imaging scans to show the parts of the brain that lit up while hearing a favorite song. They figured the brain-chemical system was involved, but “This is the first demonstration that the brain's own opioids are directly involved in musical pleasure,” he said.
The most interesting part of the experiment, Levitin said, was the particular anecdotes the subjects told the researchers after the study. “One said: ‘I know this is my favorite song but it doesn't feel like it usually does.’ Another said: ‘It sounds pretty, but it’s not doing anything for me.’”
Better skip the opioid blockers. If it has that strong an influence on your enjoyment of music, just think how it could dampen sex.