Researchers pharmacologically manipulated the dopaminergic transmission of twenty-seven participants while they were listening to music and showed for the first time a causal link between dopamine and musical pleasure and motivation. While the dopamine precursor levodopa increased the hedonic experience and motivational responses, such as willingness to purchase a song, the dopamine antagonist risperidone led to a reduction of both. These results critically shed new light on the neurobiology and neurochemistry underpinning reward responses, contributing to an open debate on human pleasures.
Humans usually take part in pleasurable experiences such as listening to music, singing or playing. Understanding how the brain translates a sequence of sounds, such as music, into a pleasant rewarding experience is thus a challenge.
Study - Researchers - Dopamine - Role - Regulation
In this study, researchers addressed whether dopamine, a neurotransmitter playing a major role in the regulation of pleasant experiences and motivation to behave in certain ways, has a direct function in the positive experience induced by music. In order to answer this question, the authors manipulated the dopaminergic synaptic availability for the participants' neuronal receptors. In the three different sessions, separated by one week at least, the experts orally administrated to each participant a dopamine precursor (levodopa, which increases dopaminergic availability), a dopamine antagonist (risperidone; to reduce dopaminergic signaling), and placebo (lactose; as a control). Researchers predicted that if dopamine plays a causal role in music-evoked reward, levodopa and risperidone should lead to opposite effects regarding musical pleasure and motivation.
Laura Ferreri, UB-IDIBELL researcher and first signer of the study, says it "sheds new light on the role of the human dopaminergic system regarding abstract rewards." Moreover, "these results challenge previous evidence conducted in animal models, where dopaminergic manipulations showed a clear role of dopamine in motivation and learning, but a controversial function in regulating hedonic responses in primary rewards such as food." The researcher...
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