Hypothesizing Music Intervention Enhances Brain Functional Connectivity Involving Dopaminergic Recruitment: Common Neuro-correlates to Abusable Drugs

Kenneth Blum, Thomas Simpatico, Marcelo Febo, Chris Rodriquez, Kristina Dushaj, Mona Li, Eric R. Braverman, Zsolt Demetrovics, Marlene Oscar-Berman, Rajendra D. Badgaiyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The goal of this review is to explore the clinical significance of music listening on neuroplasticity and dopaminergic activation by understanding the role of music therapy in addictive behavior treatment. fMRI data has shown that music listening intensely modifies mesolimbic structural changes responsible for reward processing (e.g., nucleus accumbens [NAc]) and may control the emotional stimuli’s effect on autonomic and physiological responses (e.g., hypothalamus). Music listening has been proven to induce the endorphinergic response blocked by naloxone, a common opioid antagonist. NAc opioid transmission is linked to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine release. There are remarkable commonalities between listening to music and the effect of drugs on mesolimbic dopaminergic activation. It has been found that musical training before the age of 7 results in changes in white-matter connectivity, protecting carriers with low dopaminergic function (DRD2A1 allele, etc.) from poor decision-making, reward dependence, and impulsivity. In this article, we briefly review a few studies on the neurochemical effects of music and propose that these findings are relevant to the positive clinical findings observed in the literature. We hypothesize that music intervention enhances brain white matter plasticity through dopaminergic recruitment and that more research is needed to explore the efficacy of these therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3753-3758
Number of pages6
JournalMolecular neurobiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Marlene Oscar Berman is the recipient of grants from the National Institutes of Health, NIAAA (RO1-AA07112 and K05-AA00219). Marcelo Febo is the recipient of R01DA019946. Kenneth Blum is the recipient of the Life Extension Foundation grant awarded to PATH Foundation NY. We also thank Margaret A. Madigan for her expert editorial work.

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health grants 1R01NS073884 and 1R21MH073624, awarded to Dr. Rajendra D Badgaiyan. Dr. Marcelo Febo is the recipient of R01DA019946 and R21DA038009. The writing of this paper was supported in part by funds from the National Institutes of Health, NIAAA (RO1-AA07112 and K05-AA00219), and the Medical Research Service of the US Department of Veterans Affairs (MOB). KB and ERB are the recipients of a grant to PATH FOUNDATION NY, by Life Extension Foundation, Ft/Lauderdale, Florida.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Brain white matter
  • Cognition
  • Dopaminergic recruitment
  • Impulsivity
  • Music therapy


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