Ever wondered why some songs continue to haunt us for days and affect us so deeply? According to researchers, listening to sounds such as music and noise has a significant effect on our moods and emotions because of brain dopamine regulation — a neurotransmitter strongly involved in emotional behaviour and mood regulation.
However, the differences in dopamine receptors may drive the differences between individuals, the researchers said.
The study revealed that a functional variation in dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) gene modulates the impact of music as opposed to noise on mood states and emotion-related prefrontal and striatal brain activity.
“Our results suggest that even a non-pharmacological intervention such as music might regulate mood and emotional responses at both the behavioural and neuronal level,” said Elvira Brattico, Professor at Aarhus University in Denmark.
For the study, 38 healthy participants were recruited, with 26 of them having a specific “GG variant” of DRD2 and 12 a “GT variant”. They underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during performance of an implicit emotion-processing task while listening to music or noise.
The results showed that in participants with DRD2GG receptors the mood improved after music exposure, whereas in GT partipants mood deteriorated after noise exposure.
Moreover, the music, as opposed to noise environment, decreased the striatal activity of GT subjects as well as the prefrontal activity of GG subjects while processing emotional faces.
These findings suggest that genetic variability of dopamine receptors affects sound environment modulations of mood and emotion processing, the researchers suggested.
Importantly, these study encourages the search for personalised music-based interventions for the treatment of brain disorders associated with aberrant dopaminergic neurotransmission as well as abnormal mood and emotion-related brain activity, Brattico said, in the paper published in the journal Neuroscience.
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