Sounds, such as music and noise, are capable of reliably affecting our moods and emotions, possibly by regulating brain dopamine, a neuro-transmitter strongly involved in emotional behaviour and mood regulation, a new study has found.
However, the relationship of sound environments with mood and emotions is highly variable across individuals. A putative source of variability is genetic background, said researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark and University of Helsinki in Finland.
The study shows that a functional variation in dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2 rs1076560) modulates the impact of music as opposed to noise on mood states and emotion-related prefrontal and striatal brain activity, evidencing a differential susceptibility for the affect-modulatory effects of music and noise on the GG and GT genotypes.
In more details, results showed mood improvement after music exposure in GG subjects and mood deterioration after noise exposure in GT subjects.
Moreover, the music as opposed to noise environment decreased the striatal activity of GT subjects as well as the prefrontal activity of GG subjects while processing emotional faces.
These results are novel in identifying a biological source of variability in the impact of sound environments on emotional responses.
“Our approach allowed the observation of the link between genes and phenotypes via a true biological path that goes from functional genetic variations (for which the effects on molecular function is known) to brain physiology subtending behaviour,” said Tiziana Quarto from University of Helsinki.
“The use of this approach is especially important when the investigated behaviour is complex and very variable across subjects, because this means that many biological factors are involved,” said Quarto.
“This study represents the first use of the imaging genetics approach in the field of music and sounds in general,” said Elvira Brattico from Aarhus University.
“We are really excited about our results because they suggest that even a non-pharmacological intervention such as music, might regulate mood and emotional responses at both the behavioural and neuronal level,” said Brattico.
“More importantly, these findings encourage the search for personalised music-based interventions for the treatment of brain disorders associated with aberrant dopaminergic neurotransmission as well as abnormal mood and emotion-related brain activity,” Brattico added.
The study was published in the journal Neuroscience.