Modern Mind: Neuroscience reveals the hype behind rave culture
The rave scene—a space with flashing lights, fast-paced electronic dance music, and liberal drug use—is an escape to a world where worries don’t exist. By studying this scene, the college student is the model organism for understanding the social and neurological phenomenon behind raves and music festivals such as Beyond Wonderland and Coachella.
Rave music derives from European techno music and American house music and first flourished in the United States and the United Kingdom. electronically produced dance music.
At raves, the music brings everyone together. When we listen to our favorite songs, the pupils of our eyes dilate and our heart races while the cerebellum, a region of our brain responsible for movement, activates. At USC’s Brain & Creativity Institute, the Brain & Music Lab is currently investigating the relationship between music, psychology, and neuroscience to understand the neural dynamics of connective emotion in response to music throughout our lives.
The music itself is like a drug. Listening to music can relieve stress and it intensifies when someone is high, creating a transcendent experience like no other. Clinical studies have even shown that LSD enhances the emotions evoked by music and volunteers have reported feelings of “wonder, transcendence, power and tenderness”, which is where drug use comes in. .
According to the University of Kent, delirium and the use of psychedelics can help create “meaningful bonds” and prove useful in clinical therapies, respectively. In this study, Dr. Martha Newson found that, of the “4Ds” that alter states of consciousness – dancing, drumming, sleep deprivation, and drugs – dancing and drugs, especially psychedelics, were most strongly associated strengthening social ties.
Although the mind-altering recreational trips of psychedelics have deep-rooted stigmas associated with them, their clinical applications should be recognized from a public health perspective.
Ketamine’s potential as a mental health treatment is highlighted by evidence supporting neural regeneration in the prefrontal cortex, the focal site of brain disorders such as depression and anxiety. In 2017, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved testing for MDMA as a possible treatment for PTSD. Ketamine and MDMA are part of a growing field exploring the use of party drugs in psychedelic therapies for behavioral and psychiatric disorders.
However, rave culture shouldn’t be drug-centric. Even though raves are associated with drugs, this association should not be viewed negatively because these same drugs have clinical applications. Music and people make raves really enjoyable.
The unity and togetherness of raves and music festivals are at the heart of the rave experience. Raves should be viewed positively because of the tremendous benefits of listening to music in such an open and accepting environment. It’s the freedom and connection you feel when you’re surrounded by people you love, or even strangers who share the same feeling for the artist and are there to have a good time.
Now, if you’re considering going to your first rave but are hesitant because you don’t know the artist or don’t think you’d like it, I encourage you to give it a try. Go for vibration, neuroscience backs it up.
Victoria Chan is a senior writer on neuroscience and innovations in the field. His column, “Modern Mind”, airs every other Friday.