Music instead of alcohol? Sometimes it happens!

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Last reviewed: 10.11.2018

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10 November 2018, 09:00

Some people, after listening to music, experience nausea and dizziness, as in intoxication. It turns out that music can affect not only the auditory receptors, but also the vestibular apparatus.

Intoxication without alcohol is not a metaphorical word combination, but a reality. Many people note that a certain frequency range of sound vibrations causes them dizziness, increased heart rate, nausea. Such a reaction is found not only in music, but also in sounds reproduced in a certain frequency spectrum. Specialists explain that this condition happens in people suffering from an inborn defect affecting the hearing aid. Such a defect is called the degassing of semicircular canals.

Most of us know what the human organ of perception of sounds is. This is a whole system of cavity bone formations forming a cochlea with a vestibule and semicircular canals (part of the vestibular apparatus). In most people, the auditory and equilibrium departments are separated by a bone membrane. However, 90 years ago, scientist Pietro Tulio discovered: the membrane in question can be excessively thin, or even mesh. Perhaps, it is this that somehow affects the appearance of intoxication when listening to music.

What specific processes occur in the "wrong" internal ear system, when reproducing sounds belonging to a particular frequency range? Specialists representing the University of Utah, explained this by the example of a specific fish, with auditory and vestibular organs, similar to those of humans.

Both fish and humans have a special fluid medium in the cavities of the semicircular canals. At the moment of movement of the trunk and changes in its position, this fluid also comes into motion, which is fixed by special cellular structures that give signals to the brain. As a response, the brain coordinates the function of the musculature to maintain balance and hold the viewpoint at the desired point. The snail also contains a liquid that vibrates under the influence of acoustic waves. Such vibrations are felt by the auditory structures.

In the case when the bone membrane between the auditory and vestibular apparatus is too thin, or even contains holes in itself, the mechanical oscillations that must activate the auditory organ also erroneously affect the vestibular organ. As a consequence, the cells of the semicircular canals "think" that the person is moving, and the brain responds accordingly.

If the case with the membrane is completely bad, then at the sounds of a certain frequency a person may become dizzy, he may be sick. Scientists emphasize: sounds should have a certain frequency, because false musical intoxication is a reaction not to any noise. Such a phenomenon in the form of the degeneracy of the semicircular canals does not happen to everyone, but only to ten people out of a thousand. In severe cases, surgical treatment is used to correct the auditory membrane.

The results of the scientific work are described in the publication Scientific Reports (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-28592-7).

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