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Can Music Be Triggering?


Man listening to music

There are approximately 97 million officially released songs; when traveling, going to and from work, driving to a family or friend’s house, and more we constantly change the radio station or tune in to our phone for music. Whether you are in recovery or not, music can affect us if we let it. When we hear a certain song, we may experience a flood of emotions and we find ourselves taking a trip to the past. We may feel elated as we remember the good times of childhood or with an old lover, or we may feel extreme sadness, guilt, or depression as we remember someone we lost.

Penn State University states that listening to music is known to trigger the “human mirror neuron system”, a system that helps the brain “couple perception and production of hierarchically sequential information, giving the brain the ability to trigger meaning and emotion.” A 2009 study titled “The Neural Architecture of Music-Evoked Autobiographical Memories” conducted by researchers at UC Davis found that while each participant’s brain was mapped while listening to music, specific brain regions were found linked to autobiographical memories and emotions activated by familiar music. It seems that music can cause us to refer to a previous time when that music was played or an event that occurred related to the meaning of a song. Petr Janata, associate professor of psychology at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain, stated for Psychology Today that, “What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head. It calls back memories of a particular person or place, and you might suddenly see that person’s face in your mind’s eye.”

Medical Daily reported a study conducted in Finland with 102 volunteers. Researchers found that when listening to unfamiliar music, those who had higher levels of empathy were more likely to experience intense types of sadness than others. The ways in which we listen to music can cause us to return to memories, so it’s important that we are aware of what music we listen to and how it is affecting us always.

If you are seeking treatment for an addiction, call us today at 888-743-0490. Simple Recovery provides a comforting, spacious center for individuals ready to focus solely on their health and well-being. We believe that recovery is a process, not a destination. In light of this, we have several programs to help you no matter what stage you are at in recovery. Call us today for a consultation.