A study says you might be biologically different if you get chills when listening to music


Matthew Sachs from the University of California is the one conducting the study on how music affects the brain. Out of 20 participants, 10 of them said listening to music gives them chills, especially when it is their favorite song, and the other 10 said they didn’t get any chills.

The scientific term for this phenomenon is known as ‘frisson.’ The students who got chills had their brain scans taken, and researchers discovered that neural connections were significantly higher between their prefrontal cortex and emotional processing centers. When interpreting the meaning of a song, we use our prefrontal cortex.

To put it simply, the people who got chills experienced a heightened emotional connection compared to the other 10 who got no chills.

The more unpredictable and dramatic the music is, the more you get chills

A researcher from Oberin College, William Halimou, authored a paper on these chills induced by music. The paper aimed to shared insight on why people get these chills when they listen to music.

He said that since the chills people get from listening to music are followed by positive emotions and consist of goosebumps and uncontrolled tingles and shivers down the arms and back, which can sometimes spread to other areas, they are a form of fission. Some people appropriately refer to these chills as “goosetingles.”

But what kind of song can trigger these chills?

According to Halimou, the music that is able to induce these chills depends on the individuals, as it comes down to personal taste. But a study conducted by Grewe et al. showed that if the music contained passages with surprising or new harmonies or textural or dynamic changes, it was more likely to trigger shivers.

Another study conducted by Loui and Harrison discovered that when melodies in the human vocal register or voice, moments of modulation and loudness reached their peak, people usually got chills. Although what counts as chill-inducing music is mostly due to personal taste, the researchers believe that there are certain qualities in music that usually trigger chills.

It turns out that music can trigger separation anxiety

The reason these people are experiencing these heightened emotional states could be evolutionary. Halimou references another study by Gunther Bernatzky and Jaak Panksepp that says that the observed activity in the brain areas as people got the chills plays a role in triggering separation anxiety. The music makes these people feel the same way a child feels when separated from a parent.

So when you hear a voice that speaks to you on an emotional level in a song or you listen to your favourite song, check to see if you get chills. If you do, you are one the people who experience music in a special way.