Oxytocin: Fueling Music's Power in Human Emotions, Memory, and Restoration

Spring
2008
Project Director(s): 
Gary Hill, School of Music; Kay Norton, School of Music; Robin Rio, School of Music; Dana Rosdahl, College of Nursing; Lisa Ehlers, School of Music

Music is ubiquitous. The history of every culture is replete with examples of its use to motivate, manipulate, facilitate, and ameliorate. Despite volumes of empirical evidence illustrating the effects of music on humans, research establishing causality is scarce. The potent hormone oxytocin, known to be a factor in numerous mammalian instincts—from childbearing to bonding to spatial memory—has been found to result from musical engagement. We propose that oxytocin may induce some of the effects attributed to music’s sway over humans. Moreover, music’s stimulation of this primordial nonapeptide implies that its meaning to humans is far more significant than previously thought.