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What’s your favorite song?

Without knowing you, it would be tough for me to guess, due to the number and diversity of music styles. But it would be safe to assume that your favorite song most likely elicits a strong emotional response.

When people talk about their favorite music, they frequently describe it as sometimes giving them “the chills.” You’ve likely experienced this with your favorite music. But the intriguing part is that experiencing this sensation is not reliant on any one genre of music.

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute had participants bring in their favorite music. Even though each participant documented an intense emotional response, the music genres ranged from classical to jazz to punk. With so much variety, what was responsible for this underlying emotional reaction?

The answer, as it so happens, is dopamine. Scientists at McGill University found a direct connection between the elation produced by music and the discharge of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical substance released in the brain that influences emotional regulation, pleasure, and rewards. As reported by Richard Depue, professor at Cornell University: “When our dopamine system is activated, we are more positive, excited and eager to go after goals or rewards, such as food, sex, money, education or professional achievements.”

So music is associated with dopamine, and dopamine to motivation, but the music itself is less significant than the psychological response it creates. This leads to some compelling implications.

Let’s return to your favorite song. Has it ever given you “the chills” or produced a strong emotional reaction? If so, you’ve just identified one of the most effective means to release more dopamine into your system, which is a brain hack for positivity and motivation.

So what genre of music should you go with to achieve these positive emotional reactions? The major insight from the above research is that it depends entirely on your preferences. The music can be joyful, sad, upbeat, slow, instrumental, classical, rock, or rap. The trick is taking stock of the emotional responses you obtain from various songs and genres.

Once you understand how you react viscerally to certain songs, you can make use of those songs to elicit the sought after emotional reaction, producing the optimal emotional state for each situation.

As an example, if rock ‘n’ roll gets you pumped up and inspired for a workout, you may want to listen to your favorite Metallica album while heading to the gym. In contrast, if you’re trying to loosen up after a stressful day at the office, perhaps the best of Beethoven is the way to go.

And last, if you have hearing loss, consider that the latest hearing aid technology that can stream music wirelessly from portable devices straight to your hearing aids. This puts you in a unique position to take advantage of this research.

Simply dial in your favorite songs on your phone or portable device, deliver it wirelessly to your hearing aids, and let the dopamine start flowing.


By the way, what is your favorite song? And which songs or music genres elicit strong reactions or specific moods for you?

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