Can music give you good chills? Science has an answer

by Madonna Watts D'Souza

Can music give you good chills? Science has an answer

December 21, 2020

Music. Whether you are adrenaline-filled rock enthusiast, a metalhead, a trendy pop lover or a Vintage darling, music is has become a quintessential need in our lives. I mean imagine a world without music; No more beats to tap your feet to. No more celebratory tunes. No more violins and saxophones to woo your beau and no more music for you to reminiscence your past.

We all need music in some shape or form. One thing for sure is that the reason why we are so attached to music is that it never fails to make us feel something. But there are songs which are your favourites. You can never part away from them.

Whenever it plays, You have an electrifying pulse run throughout your body. Your head feels lighter. Your body is quivering in pure excitement. However, sometimes you might notice that you even get cutis anserina, in other words- Goosebumps due to your favourite music.

Maybe you may sometimes wonder, “What is so exceptional and stimulating about music, that it has the power to control your emotions and sometimes give you Goosebumps?” It seems like the work has been made easy for us as scientists have found out why music gives you a series of chills or goosebumps.

According to a study by Neuroscientists at the Université de Bourgogne Franche-Comté, France, your brains perceives music as a reward and hence to give you even more pleasure, you feel good and get goosebumps. What baffles scientists, even more, is about how our primitive instincts function differently around music. The reason why your brain releases shots of Dopamine or Oxytocin are so that you feel good and will continue to do it for that pleasure. The reason why your brain does it is that it a survival instinct so, the more you do it, the more your species will thrive and survive.

For Example, Serotonin’s let out when you eat food. Dopamine’s let out after you engage in a pleasurable activity. Oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone” is let out when… You guessed it right; When you are with someone you love when you have sex or during childbirth. Understandably, these activities are essential as this helps in the survival of the human race. However, music isn’t needed by us to survive. So why does it feel so good?

Thibault Chabin along with a group of researchers studied this phenomenon. The study was published in the scientific journal Frontiers (Read more about the research here). Eighteen participants: seven males and eleven females, who got goosebumps due to music, were made to listen to music and respond to when they felt chills. They were examined with the help of an ECG scan. Chabin says to a media outlet: “Participants of our study were able to precisely indicate “chill-producing” moments in the songs, but most musical chills occurred in many parts of the extracts and not only in the predicted moments.”

“We want to measure how cerebral and physiological activities of multiple participants are coupled in natural, social musical settings,” Chabin further adds.

What researchers discovered was that a set of peculiar electrical impulses were observed in the orbitofrontal cortex when the participants reported chills. This region of the brain is mainly involved with the processing of emotions. More action was also observed in other regions of the brain, such as the supplementary motor region which primarily controls movements. The right temporal lobe manages the auditory processing as well as the fondness for music in the right hemisphere.

“The fact that we can measure this phenomenon with EEG brings opportunities for study in other contexts, in scenarios that are more natural and within groups. This represents a good perspective for musical emotion research,” Chabin declares.

Chabin adds, “What is most intriguing is that music seems to have no biological benefit to us. However, the implication of dopamine and the reward system in the processing of musical pleasure suggests an ancestral function for music.”

Chabin assumes that maybe music was once an ancestral function. It doesn’t exactly help in the survival of humans but helps them to continue to progress through their lifetime. As communities can form bonds with each other over the love of music. This can be seen during music festivals or jam sessions. However, this ancestral function has yet not been discovered.

Authors of the research were also of the opinion that the way our brain works during music may connect the ability of our brain to predict future outcomes. The brain releases more dopamine as Humans anticipate the arrival of something exciting. This may help in understanding our brain further.

The results which depict the activity shown in the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain. (Source: Frontiers)

If you feel chills when listening to music while your friend doesn't, it might mean you have a special brain

Research in the past indicates that about 50% of the human population experience Goosebumps whilst listening to music. What was strange about the research was that Dopamine levels spiked up seconds before the song’s main segment. The study was done by Matthew Sachs, a PhD student with a group of 20 participants.

“Those who experienced shivers have a higher volume of fibres that connect their auditory cortex to the areas associated with emotional processing, which means the two areas communicate better,” “People who get the chills have an enhanced ability to experience intense emotions,” Sachs told the Neuroscience News.

So no need of brooding over the fact why you feel those chills. Wait for your favourite part, take a deep breath and enjoy that moment doing what you love! Your brain will thank you.

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