THE BLOG
09/16/2010 06:01 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

I'll Have What She's Having: How Mirror Neurons and Music Increase Pleasure

I went to see Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal the other night in Oakland California. The setting was beautiful and the crowd was thrilled with the music and the vibes. Late in the program, as they sang a lusty, bluesy song together Taj began to wave his hands in the air and he encouraged us all to do it with him. Everyone began waving their hands and arms in the air and we all fell into a side-to-side sweeping, wave of ecstatic dancing! We were like one big sea anemone, an organism, waving in a sea of music and bodies and bliss.

Why is it so easy to do this?

Music is a universal language. It probably preceded speech. When you listen to or create music many specific areas of your brain light up. The thinking areas, the sensory areas, the memory areas, the motor areas, and even the anticipation and predictive areas of your brain light up during the silence between songs. This happens especially to music that you are listening to that you set up yourself. The 'play lists' that you create on your iPod actually stimulate the parts of your brain that anticipate the next song during the silence between the songs.

One of the other structures that lights up are the mirror neurons you have throughout your brain/body system. These are widely distributed in the brain but occur in the parietal lobe specifically to help you notice and track what your friends are doing. The same mirror neurons fire when you both follow where someone else is looking, with your attention, and when you are doing the looking all by yourself. They are, for all purposes, the same thing to your brain - either doing the looking or watching someone else as they do the looking. Non-duality - "I am both the observer and the observed"! Consequently, we all did what Taj told us to do, once we had looked to our right and left to see if our friends were doing it too!

Mirror neurons help keep you in line with your tribe and keep you connected to others. They help regulate your bodily functions, social behavior, what you do and say to another, how you interpret another's actions and they encourage you to act and feel the way the majority is acting and feeling at any given moment. Mirror neurons are what make you social. They help 'teach' you to be a part of your tribe. You, and everybody else in your tribe, keep an 'eye' out, so to speak, for unity, divisiveness, action, calm, eating, yawning, laughing, and a myriad of other social signals that make you either a part of or separate from the rest. Both listening to and playing music draws on your attention, your anticipation and your mirror neurons too.

Do you have music playing when you make love? I hope you do so let's assume you do. Do you notice that you like to put on the same play list, over and over, at least some of the time? The one you remember having the best lovemaking to? The one that you can hum to and that you anticipate will take you to the same high, ecstatic places you went before?

Because your brain knows what song comes next (You've been listening to this music for awhile now, haven't you!) it can carry on even without the music. Your brain anticipates the next song and is already there, before you can actually acknowledge it. Let's hope your lover likes it too because this same music is putting the two of you into a kind of trance together - a mirror neuron trance.

Assuming this is music you both love, your brains are synchronizing to the music. Your brains are together on this one and they are both anticipating the next words, the next song on the list and the specific pleasure that went along with the songs. They are creating: 'between-brain oscillatory couplings'. Couplings = good. So music helps you to make more connections through brain synchronizing. This then effects bodily movements and even the anticipation of great pleasure.

Great experiences and the memories that went with those are guiding you. These are your own personal mirror neurons binding together. You are talking to each other in ways you aren't aware of but that help you to stay in 'one mind'. Combine that with pheromones, oxytocin, adrenalin and the other neurochemical cocktails that go with LOVE and, well, you're either in for the ride of your life or a very hard fall once the glow is gone. Good luck!


Suzie Heumann is the founder of Tantra.com. She studies, writes, has authored three books and makes films about conscious sex, Tantra and the Kama Sutra. Check out Tantra.com Premium for the most comprehensive tantra training available on the Internet!