New Neuroscience Study Explains Why Some Develop Chills As A Natural Response To Listening To Music

If you have ever caught yourself wondering if there is a scientific reason why some people experience music more strongly than others and even develop chills when being spirited away to another realm, a new neuroscience study has shown that there actually is a reason why some people are affected more deeply than others when they listen to their favorite songs.

Many of the world’s greatest artists have called music the highest form of the arts, with Oscar Wilde asserting in The English Renaissance of Art in 1882 that the other arts can only aspire to that of music and pale in comparison.

“Music is the art in which form and matter are always one, the art whose subject cannot be separated from the method of its expression, the art which completely realizes the artistic ideal, and is the condition to which all the other arts are constantly aspiring.”

The Prussian writer E.T.A. Hoffmann also declared in a study of Beethoven in 1810 in the German periodical Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (General Music Newspaper) that music is by far the most romantic and evocative form of art that there could ever be.

“It is the most romantic of all arts, and we could almost say the only true romantic one because its only subject is the infinite. Just as Orpheus’ lyre opened the gates of the underworld, music unlocks for mankind an unknown realm, a world with nothing in common with the surrounding world of the outer senses. Here we abandon definite feelings and surrender to an inexpressible longing.”

Mozart's Fortepiano in Salzburg was constructed by Anton Gabriel Walter in Vienna and is believed to be one of his oldest surviving instruments.
Mozart's Fortepiano in Salzburg was constructed by Anton Gabriel Walter in Vienna and is believed to be one of his oldest surviving instruments. [Image by Kristine Moore]

The new study explaining why some people have physical responses like chills when listening to music was published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, according to Business Insider Australia. In this particular study, scientists closely examined 20 students when listening to songs and found that half of these ended up getting goosebumps when hearing music.

The way in which this neuroscience study was conducted was by using Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) which are MRI scans which allow scientists to map out the brains of different students to try and discover why some had physical responses to music and others didn’t.

It was discovered that those students who developed chills when they heard particular songs which resonated deeply with them had a denser amount of brain fibers that hook up sections of the brain which process things like emotions and and auditory information. The University of Southern California’s Matthew Sachs, a co-author of the study, explained that when an individual has more of these brain fibers, they also have a much more powerful processing of these two regions of the brain as a result.

A new Neuroscience study explains why some develop chills as a result of listening to their favorite songs.
A new Neuroscience study explains why some develop chills as a result of listening to their favorite songs. [Image by John Pratt/Getty Images]

After conducting the Neuroscience study Brain Connectivity Reflects Human Aesthetic Responses to Music, Matthew Sachs reached the conclusion that these individuals who take such a fancy to music that they get chills from it also have higher emotional responses in general, regardless of whether they are plugged into music or not.

“Emotional reactions to aesthetic stimuli are intriguing experiences to humans as they are profoundly pleasurable and rewarding, yet highly individualized. Finding the behavioral and neural differences between individuals who do and do not experience such reactions may help gain a better understanding of the reward circuitry and the evolutionary significance of aesthetics for humans.”

Past studies have shown that music is extremely beneficial when it comes to managing our emotions and one such study, conducted by the University of York, also showed that sad music has the ability to actually make many people feel happier as a natural result of listening to it.

“One of the most important motivations to engage in music listening is its emotional effect on us. Listeners often report that they listen to music to calm them down, to stimulate them, to bring them into a positive mood, or to experience emotions like melancholy or nostalgia. Therefore, listening to the sound of music is unique way to experience and engage with different contrasting emotions, helping us to understand and regulate our mood according to many different situations. This makes music an important part of our overall mental wellbeing.”

So the next time you listen to music and find chills running up and down your spine, you’ll know there is a reason why your brain is making you feel this way and that there is a new neuroscience study to back up the fact that you have very busy brain fibers.

[Featured Image by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]