Play Piano Today With Dr. J

Music and the Endorphin Rush

Posted on: March 16, 2013

Last week, in the midst of our Bach and Sons concert tour, I wrote an article on the joy of music-making and music-sharing for my monthly organ studio newsletter.   I was on a “high” doing what I love most—performing and sharing our show with audiences—and wrote the article to help my students realize the “high” they will feel when performing on their upcoming Spring Concert.  Interestingly, after returning home, I was reading through the stack of magazines that had collected in our absence and discovered an article on studies being conducted on the concept of the endorphin rush.  Thus, the resulting compilation of thoughts and ideas.

It’s not uncommon to hear someone talk about getting an “endorphin rush.” It is said that sex, exercise, even hot peppers — all sorts of things (like performing Bach and Sons or being actively engaged as an audience member at a Bach and Sons show) are credited for these euphoric highs. So what are endorphins, and are they really responsible for our feelings of excitement or satisfaction?

“Endorphins are your own private narcotic. Endorphins are neurotransmitters, chemicals that pass along signals from one neuron to the next and are produced as a response to certain stimuli, especially stress, fear or pain. They originate in various parts of your body — the pituitary gland, your spinal cord and throughout other parts of your brain and nervous system — and interact mainly with receptors in cells found in regions of the brain responsible for blocking pain and controlling emotion.

New imaging methods now allow researchers to study the ebb and flow of endorphins as they interact with human brain cells, verifying their role in the rush that exercise — and other triggers such as performing music — sometimes prompts.”[1]

1 Physiology of beta-endorphins. A close-up view and a review of the literature.  Dalayeun JF, Norès JM, Bergal S. Hôpital Suisse, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

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