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Music And Emotion: What's The Scientific Link?

DAVIS, Calif. - Maybe it was at church or an all-night dance party or maybe it was an orchestra performing Beethoven's ninth, but chances are, music has moved you. A UC Davis professor is being paid to find out why.

Music has the power to energize. "Mostly the rhythm, that's usually how I pick it," said Ashley, a student. It has the power to calm. "It helps me relax when I'm stressed out," said Ashley. It has the power to annoy and to inspire. Why is that?

UC Davis neuropsychology professor Petr Janata just received a $1 million dollar grant to study how people experience emotions and have spiritual experiences when they're engaged with music.

Ever have a song trigger a memory? A breakup? Your childhood? Your wedding day? Previous studies have suggested that how we hear music and how we remember emotions involve the same frontal area of the brain. Janata suspects spirituality does too.

"Where is spirituality in the brain? Is it one little spot right there, or some sort of distinct network? We don't know yet," said Janata.

Over the next three years he'll study several religious groups and compare them to hard-core rock music fans. Believe it or not, there are similarities. "It all combines to produce these transcendent or deeply emotional or what those people would characterize as spiritual experiences," said Janata.

Using electrodes, motion detectors -- even MRI imagery, he'll measure how music stimulates brain and muscle activity for a glimpse at what may be the origins of two of the things that make us uniquely human: religion and music.

Material: Jason Howe via cbs13.com