When it comes to music, we all react to it differently. For some, it is a cathartic thing and a way to free themselves from the stress of everyday life. For others, it is a soothing wave. A small portion of these people will have a physical reaction to music in the form of chills.
Have you ever found yourself listening to music, when suddenly you feel a tingle on the arm and you notice goosebumps on the skin? If this rings a bell, you might be biologically different than others who hear the same song and don’t have the same reaction. Turns out that these goosebumos can tell something about your brain`s structure. Interestingly, a recent study suggests that music-induced chills do point to structural differences and that those who get them are more in-tune with their emotions.
I Got Chills, They’re Multiplying
The study was done by Matthew Sachs, a student from the University of California, investigating the impact of music on the brain. It involved 20 participants, 10 of which reported they got goosebumps when listening to music they love and 10 that didn’t.
The team of researchers took brain scans of the participants who got chills, who were found to have higher number of neural connections between their auditory cortex, emotional processing centers, and prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex takes part in interpreting a song`s meaning and similar high-order cognition. Specifically, these students experienced stronger connection to the song they were hearing than the ones who didn’t get chills.
What Kind of Songs Cause Chills?
A 4th year undergraduate student at Oberin College, William Halimou, wrote a paper on music-induced ‘chills’ in order to understand why certain people report these chills when listening to a particular song.
“Music-induced chills are a form of frisson in that they consist of involuntary shivers and tingles down the back and arms (sometimes even other areas) and goosebumps, accompanied by positive feelings. These chills been appropriately called “goosetingles” by some.”
When it comes to the kind of songs that trigger chills, Halimou states,
“From my research so far, it seems that chill-inducing music is very personal, and varies across individuals. However, one study by Grewe et al. did observe that musical passages containing new or unexpected harmonies or sudden dynamic or textural changes evoked shivers the most.
Another study by Harrison and Loui found that peaks in loudness, moments of modulation and melodies in the human voice or human vocal register were common chill-inducers. All in all, while chill-inducing music is largely personal, there may be some general music features that more commonly evoke chills.”
This explains why we experience these sensations. He references a study which suggests that chills are likely to be associated with socio-emotional systems which generate separation-distress.