Justin Kiggins

The ten songs that are as good as drugs are… your favorite ten songs

January 12, 2011 | 2 Minute Read

A good friend sent me a link to this article about the recent paper out of the Zatorre lab, “Anatomically distint dopamine release during anticipation and experience of of peak emotion to music.”

The article is titled “Ten Songs that Will Get You High, According to Science,” and it goes on to list these ten songs.

Um. No. If you are going to report on a study, you better read it first.

The author apparently read some other headlines on the article, found the list of songs that were used, and then offered up “ten songs the study used that are as good as your chemical of choice.” As would be expected, many of the songs the commenters disagreed with.

However, there is nothing special about the songs on this list and the study DOES NOT say that there is.

This is an awesome study… but the only things that make these songs special is that they were submitted by the subjects of the study themselves.

From the paper…
“First, individuals provided ten pieces of instrumental music to which they experience intense pleasure and “chills” without restrictions to the genre of music, which included classical, folk, jazz, electronica, rock, punk, techno and tango (see http://www.zlab.mcgill.ca/supplements/supplements_intro.html for samples).”

But then, “control stimuli were selected for each individual using a paradigm where one individual’s pleasurable music is used as another person’s neutral music.”

So its not that these songs are special in and of themselves…. for one subject they might have used Zeppelin as “pleasurable” and Beethoven as indifferent and for another subject visa versa.

The thing is, we already know that music that we like (remember, the subjects chose the music themselves) is pleasurable and there is no need to do a study to test it. What is unique is right there in the title of the study: “Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music”.

If you really want to know the ten songs that will “get you high,” then just go find your ten favorite songs… the ones that “give you chills.” Those are the ones you want.


Salimpoor VN, Benovoy M, Larcher K, Dagher A, Zatorre RJ. Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music. Nature Neuroscience. 2011;(January). Available at: http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/nn.2726.

“Bliss dance” photo CC-BY Geoff Sterns

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