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Music Stimulates Emotions Through Specific Brain Circuits

Jon Lieff, MD

MediMusic CEO & Co-Founder

Music has a central role in human society because it so strongly evokes feelings and affects social activities and interactions. The study of music’s influence has greatly increased knowledge of emotion in the brain.

Studies show that technology has advanced music and recent studies show dramatic effects on all the brain regions that are related to emotion—amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampus, nucleus accumbens and critical regions of the cortex including insula, cingulate and orbitofrontal. It shows that music stimulates emotions through specific brain circuits.

Previous posts have described the unique effects of music on the neuroplasticity for learning, the development and evolution of language, improvisation, emotions and spirituality. This post will update the specific emotional brain circuits stimulated by music that affect socialization.

Even very young babies show emotional responses to music. At five months, babies enjoy moving in time to music. In adults, perhaps the most important use of music is in evoking, experiencing and regulating emotions related to social interaction. This includes the use of music in child parent bonding, meetings, performances, religious services and spiritual practices.

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