Can bass drops help scientists understand drug and food addictions?


The drop: The punchline to a joke we’re all in on.

We know it’s coming. We know it’s going to hit. If the DJ is really smashing it they might tease us with a few extra loops of it. But BOOM… When it hits, we’re all over it.

It’s like your ears are shaking hands with all your best mates and loved ones all at the same time. You feel it right from your tip of your toes to your big old stupid grinning face. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just got into beats this year or you’re decades deep – the drop, when produced well and timed with precision, will always satisfy.

But why? We weren’t craving the pay off until the build-up kicks in. It’s the build up that creates the need for the drop’s payload. Before the build up we were happy dancing anyway, right?

This is what Melbourne University neuroscience student Kiralee Musgrove is exploring for her PHD thesis. But not just to learn why the drop offers that rewarding feeling we all enjoy, but how it can be applied to serious conditions such as drugs, alcohol or food addictions.

Explaining her approach to Australian radio station Triple J’s Hack show Musgrove’s tests will analyse her subjects’ moods pre and post drop… And what happens to the brain when a drop simply doesn’t come.  In turn this will help her understand what is exactly going on in the brain when a craving hits.

“We might not be able to get rid of the acute craving states in these people,” she states. “But we might be able to alleviate the craving to the point that then they can go and engage in therapy.”

Studying neurological rewards from music, Kiralee explains, is crucial as there are still a huge amount of responses humans have to music that neuroscience has yet to break down. By analysing the primitive, unexplained reactions we have to specific parts of music, Kiralee may discover other reasons why we react to music in the way we do.

“Music is different to other audio stimuli, so it’s not like language, it tends to light up our brains in a different way… Music neuroscience is trying to understand why we process music differently and why it’s this whole brain phenomenon. Pleasure rewards us for doing evolutionarily good things, adaptive things, like eating food or having sex, we get pleasure from those things for a reason. But with music, it’s quite curious. We’re not actually sure why we should elicit pleasure from music because we don’t need it to stay alive.”

We don’t need music to stay alive? Hmmm… Technically accurate. We guess.

Everything else about Kiralee’s study is hugely commendable and could garner some really interesting results. Neuroscience has already shown evidence that live music reduces stress, if studying our craving for bass drops can help people recover from serious addictions this would be an incredible development.

If you’re based in Melbourne, under 40 and have no hearing problems you can participate in Kiralee’s study. Find out more.

Sources: Mixmag / Triple J

Image: Wiki Commons