Interesting musings on music and food on Blissblog--including a footnote on serotonin's role in depression, eating, and anhedonia. The wrinkle in the theory here is that serotonin-acting antidepressant drugs don't suppress the appetite the way they suppress libido. In some cases they might, but more often than not, they promote eating and extreme lethargy; a common side-effect of serotonergic drugs like Prozac, Zoloft, and the like is weight gain. This doesn't seem to make sense, because we know that a lack of serotonin is implicated in food cravings. And we also know that part of the reason why cigarettes tend to keep hunger down is because cigarette smoking causes a brief spike in serotonin levels. But serotonin has a dual effect--it's implicated in food cravings, but it's also responsible for the feeling of satiety. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac, which inhibit the reuptake of serotonin at the synapse, act via a different mechanism than powerfully serotonergic drugs like ecstasy, and their effects on appetite are more unpredictable and very different.
The goofy corollary to the observation that marijuana promotes appetite is that if you could block the cannabinoid receptors that marijuana acts on, you could potentially make the anhedonic drug to end all anhedonic drugs. That is, if you could make the anti-pot, you could create a drug that suppressed appetite so well that it could be used as a weight-loss drug. That, in fact, is the idea behind a new medication called Rimonabant, which blocks the cannabinoid receptors known as CB-1, found in nerve tissue and in fat. Though this "anti-pot" apparently works extremely well in the weight loss department, the side effects are quite anhedonic as well--depression, anxiety, and nausea. (If this drug is the "anti-pot," what happens when music (stoner rock!) is played to someone who's on it, and in effect, anti-stoned? Would the anhedonic effects of the drug extend to music appreciation, or a lack thereof?)
And how does serotonin impact music? Or how does music impact serotonin? Well, there's evidence that soothing music can increase levels of a related compound called melatonin in your blood, but there's less evidence pointing to any effect on serotonin levels. There was an interesting Italian study recently that posited that music, and how loud the music is, could increase the effects of ecstasy--that loud noise could prolong and intensify the effects of the drug, as measured by total electrical activity in rat brains. Now, this struck me as more grist for the government-supported hysteria mill; also, the methodology struck me as suspect (rats were exposed to white noise for a period of three hours while on the drug; first of all, white noise at 90-95 decibels is not the same thing as, say, house music at the same volume, and rats don't seem to process and derive pleasure from music the same way humans do.) Any shock to the system is going to increase the effects of a drug; you could probably run a study showing that putting putting a rat under extreme stress while under the influence of Tylenol led to a longer recovery rate. My question is, what was happening to the rats' serotonin levels, and specifically to the action of the brain's serotonin transporters, which ecstasy ramps up to a warp speed? That might be a more interesting study.