While music is a combination of individual notes, it is also unique. Why? As we listen to our favourite songs, it often seems as though we are being rewarded with a very special, meaningful, and personal experience.
Recent findings in neuroscience suggest that this is exactly what is happening! It turns out that music can make us feel rewarded because it activates the “reward pathway” in our brains. Scientists think that by activating this pathway, our brains can detect differences in the predictions of how a melody will sound. It also seems that melodies that produce a greater release of the neurotransmitter dopamine — our brain’s main signal for the detection and/or expectation of a pleasant response — bring about a greater feeling of reward!
In addition, music has a few other special properties. For starters, there does not appear to be a special "music" area of the brain. Instead, music affects the brain in its entirety. This means that whatever music is doing in the brain is not only on a small local scale, but also affecting our brains on a higher scale too! Music has also been found to be resilient to memory loss! This is especially important for Alzheimer’s’ disease, where several researchers are now actively testing whether music therapy might be able to help improve the quality of life of Alzheimer's patients.
So, while there remains much more research to be explored, one thing is for certain; music is very special and important to our brains!
For more information about this interesting topic, please be sure to check out: