G is for God’s Symphony

| February 26, 2014

Why do humans find the production of coordinated movement in response to music inherently pleasurable?

As I was conducting research to find an answer to my question, I stumbled upon an article on the Scientific American called “Why do we like to dance — and move to the beat?”. It seemed relevant enough. In this article, neurologist John Krakauer (Columbia University) explains that producing (or even just observing) coordinated rhythmical movement in response to music activates reward centers in the brain such as the striatum and orbitofrontal cortex. Empirical research on this matter has allowed for a better understanding of how this mechanism works. For example, we now know that activity in these reward systems increses in relation to how pleasurable we find a stimulus. However, as Dr Krakauer states, there is still very little known about the reason for which we are programmed to enjoy movement.

In terms of evolution, I believe there are various speculative theories one can put forth in order to explain why we innately find the observation and production of such movements rewarding. For example, the ability to dance might be linked to ancient mating rituals, whereby individuals who were “genetically programmed” to dance to rhythmic beats appeared more applealing to the opposite sex and therefore reproduced, successfully propelling their “dance gene” into the next generation. It might be linked to fighting techniques which where favourable to survival. Or it might be linked to a completely distinct and exceptionally favourable trait which dragged this ability along with it by default. The last, perhaps more farfetched hypothesis is grounded in the fact that we are surrounded my moving matter. Even the objects that seem to stand still before the naked eye are actually composed of vibrating subatomic particles. As the theoretical physicist Michio Kaku puts it;

“..physics are nothing but the laws of harmonies on a string. Chemistry is nothing but the melodies you can play on vibrating strings….and the mind of God would be cosmic music”

Perhaps the reason we find dancing innately rewarding is because it is our primitive, spontaneous way of connecting with our universe.

Original article: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/experts-dance/