Scientists study what happens in the brain when music gives us the ‘chills’
Fans of all types of music, from classical to techno, have long reported the physical sensation of the “chills” when they hear a song that either has, or forms, a particularly potent connection with them. These reactions are known as “frissons” — or more colloquially, “skin orgasms” — and scientists have long known that they involve the body being flooded with the neurotransmitter dopamine. Somewhere between half and two-thirds of the population have reported experiencing the phenomenon.
Scientists, however, were unsure if there were physical differences in the brains between those who reported feeling chills and those who didn’t. A joint study between Harvard and Wesleyan University was commissioned to study that question and now believe they have an answer. Using a brain scan technique known as diffusion tension imaging (DTI), scientists watched the brains’ of a group of people who experience the chills and a group who do not react to various types of music. They discovered that those who experienced chills had an increased network of nerve fibers connecting the auditory cortex, responsible for processing sound, and the anterior insular cortex, responsible for processing feelings.
While a physical difference has been detected, scientists still have more questions. The most pressing is whether these increased connections are an inherent physical difference that occurs between people or is rather a result of a learned response that yields more physical connections between brain cortices.
Via: Smithsonian Magazine