ScienceDaily (Jan. 12, 2011) — Scientists have found that the pleasurable experience of listening to music releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain important for more tangible pleasures associated with rewards such as food, drugs and sex. The new study from The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital -- The Neuro at McGill University also reveals that even the anticipation of pleasurable music induces dopamine release [as is the case with food, drug, and sex cues]. Published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the results suggest why music, which has no obvious survival value, is so significant across human society.
The team at The Neuro measured dopamine release in response to music that elicited "chills," changes in skin conductance, heart rate, breathing, and temperature that were correlated with pleasurability ratings of the music. 'Chills' or 'musical frisson' is a well established marker of peak emotional responses to music.