The neurochemistry of music

Trends Cogn Sci. 2013 Apr;17(4):179-93. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2013.02.007.


Music is used to regulate mood and arousal in everyday life and to promote physical and psychological health and well-being in clinical settings. However, scientific inquiry into the neurochemical effects of music is still in its infancy. In this review, we evaluate the evidence that music improves health and well-being through the engagement of neurochemical systems for (i) reward, motivation, and pleasure; (ii) stress and arousal; (iii) immunity; and (iv) social affiliation. We discuss the limitations of these studies and outline novel approaches for integration of conceptual and technological advances from the fields of music cognition and social neuroscience into studies of the neurochemistry of music.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / physiology
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / physiology
  • Motivation / physiology
  • Music*
  • Opioid Peptides / physiology
  • Oxytocin / physiology
  • Pleasure / physiology
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / physiology
  • Reward
  • Serotonin / physiology
  • Social Identification
  • Stress, Psychological


  • Opioid Peptides
  • Serotonin
  • Oxytocin
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Dopamine
  • Hydrocortisone