Johns Hopkins Study Finds Music Increases Dopamine Release

Brain Processing Music
Dominic Nicosia

Written By

Dominic Nicosia

Ever wonder why you drive down the interstate blasting your favorite song and screaming along at the top of your lungs? Have you considered the reason why a key change or certain chord progression literally affects the way you feel? Recovery Unplugged was essentially founded on the assertion that music creates demonstrable changes in the brain that can improve mood, boost energy and make us feel better; and new clinical findings from Johns Hopkins University just gave us a little more back-up. Researchers from the university have identified a relationship between music and dopamine release in a study recently published by the National Academy of Sciences.

What Did the Study Find?

In an attempt to delve further into music’s impact on dopamine release and the positive changes it can trigger, researchers conducted a three-phase study that combined pharmacological intervention and music-listening to measure how music can translate into a pleasant and rewarding experience. In the first phase of the study, participants were given the medication levodopa, which increases dopamine; in the second phase, they were given risperidone to reduce dopamine; and in the third stage, they were given a placebo as a control.

The researchers found that risperidone impaired the participants’ ability to experience musical pleasure, while levodopa actually enhanced it. Study author Lauren Ferreri has characterized the findings as a first: “This study shows for the first time the causal role of dopamine in musical pleasure and motivation: enjoying a piece of music, deriving pleasure from it, wanting to listen to it again, being willing to spend money for it, strongly depend on the dopamine released in our synapses.”

Dopamine, Music and Addiction

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning. It also plays a critical role in how the brain processes substance use, and is directly responsible for the development of tolerance and subsequent dependency. Recovery Unplugged uses active and passive engagement with music to help patients boost their mood, access their confidence and safely articulate their emotions. We are hoping this study sparks more interest in the relationship between music and dopamine.

Dominic Nicosia

Dominic Nicosia

Dominic Nicosia, a seasoned content writer, brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the realm of healthcare writing, particularly in the addiction care field. Holding a Bachelor's Degree in Communications and Professional Writing from the University of the Arts Philadelphia (2009), Dominic has carved a niche for himself with over seven years of specialized writing experience in addiction care.

As the Senior Content Writer at Recovery Unplugged, Dominic is entrusted with the pivotal role of curating and overseeing the online blog, ensuring its alignment with the highest standards of accuracy, relevance, and trustworthiness. His responsibilities extend beyond the blog, encompassing all written communications within the Marketing domain. From articles and thought leadership pieces to web content, Dominic's penmanship is evident in every written facet of Recovery Unplugged.

Dominic's credibility is further enhanced by his contributions to esteemed publications like Austin Fit Magazine, where he delves into critical topics such as drug use, addiction, recovery, and mental health. His writings not only reflect his profound understanding of the subject matter but also resonate with readers, offering insights and guidance. Outside the professional sphere, Dominic's passion for music is evident. He has been writing and playing music for years, showcasing his versatility and depth as a writer and artist.

Dominic Nicosia stands as a beacon of expertise and credibility in the healthcare writing community. With a deep understanding of his subject matter and a commitment to accuracy, he consistently delivers content that is both informative and reliable, meeting the highest standards of quality and trustworthiness in the industry.


  • Proven track record in managing and enhancing online blogs, articles, and thought leadership pieces.
  • Adept at blending his passion for music with his writing, offering a unique perspective on topics.


  • Bachelor's Degree in Communications and Professional Writing from the University of the Arts Philadelphia (2009).
    • Call Now: (855) 384-5794