Dopamine release during anticipation and experience of emotion in music

What is the role of emotions in aesthetic experience? This is an important question for researchers attempting to clarify the neurobiological underpinnings of our appreciation of different art forms. Peak emotional responses, or chills, however, have mostly been studied in the context of the enjoyment of music. A recent study by Valorie Salimpoor and colleagues, still in press in Nature Neuroscience, showed that peak emotional experiences while people listened to music was associated with dopamine release in the striatum. The authors’ examination of the time course of this association revealed that anticipation of the emotional peak was related with dopamine release in the caudate and its experience with release in the nucleus accumbens. Thus, the study shows a neural dissociation between two important emotional constituents of our enjoyment of music: the intensely rewarding experiences and their anticipation. Read the study here.