Scientists find out why listening to music causes chills

Scientists find out why listening to music causes chills
Image from Pixabay

Listening to music can put us in a good mood, relax or depress us, but what is clear is that it is an intense and even euphoric experience. If you‘ve ever had a tingle of genuine pleasure while listening to favourite music, for example, you might be interested to know this: That chill or tingling can be seen on brain scans. It has been linked to an activation of the brain’s reward and pleasure systems in previous brain imaging studies. Now, a new study has looked at the patterns of brain activity associated with those pleasant musical chills.

A team of researchers from Burgundy Franche-Comté University asked 11 women and 7 men to listen to a 15-minute collection containing 90-second musical fragments. Some tracks were taken from the participants’ favorite music and other recordings were selected by the same researchers.

All 18 music lovers who participated in this study reported when they got goose bumps as well as their overall emotional state. More than 300 chills were recorded, each of which lasted about 9 seconds on average. However, the results of some people were excluded from the analysis if, for example, they did not experience these sensations during the research.

The good news is that scientists found no relationship between the number of experienced pleasurable chills and music education, which means that even if you lack talent you can get goose bumps and you can still enjoy the melodies, they indicate the results of the study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

Subsequent analysis of EEG results showed that when participants experienced a chill and their arousal rates rose, brain activity also increased in the prefrontal cortex, specifically in the frontal lobe of the brain.

The results correspond to the findings of previous imaging studies that also show the activation of these brain regions, which can lead to the release of the feel-good hormone dopamine.

This study opens up new horizons

“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”

says one of the researchers, neuroscientist Thibault Chabin of the Burgundy Franche-Comté University, quoted by the Science Alert portal

The EEG is easily transportable and, as this study shows, it could be a promising tool for measuring musical pleasure in a concert hall or show.

“Musical pleasure is a very interesting phenomenon that deserves to be investigated further, in order to understand why music is rewarding and unlock why music is essential in human lives”

says the scientist

Because group emotional dynamics is a central concern of social neurosciences, the study of emotion under natural conditions is gaining interest, the study emphasizes.