Have you ever been listening to a song when all of a sudden, your heart skips a beat, the hairs on the backs of your arms stand up, and a piece of you feels as if it has taken flight? If so, you’re not alone. However, according to a new study, individuals who get “chills” when listening to beautiful music are biologically different. As a result, they may even be considered special.
The study was led by Matthew Sachs, a graduate student studying the effect of music on the brain at the University of Southern California. For the research, 20 students, 10 of who reported feeling chills while listening to their favorite songs and 10 whom did not, took part.
Quartz reports that the team of researchers took brain scans of both groups. The students who reported the equivalent of “frission,” as it is known in the scientific community, were found to have a significantly higher number of neural connections between their auditory cortex, emotional processing centers, and prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is involved in higher-order cognition, such as interpreting a song’s meaning.
Sachs himself admits the study was small and that the phenomenon is difficult to research. After all, is not unusual for people to get chills from certain songs because they have unique memories tied to them. To prove more conclusively that people who connect with music are slightly different from a biological perspective, Sachs is conducting follow-up research that involves examining the patterns of activity in people’s brains as they listen to music that induces goosebumps. His hope is to understand more about what’s happening neurologically.
From an evolutionary standpoint, chills are a response to cold and danger. Said Sachs, “Our hair stands on end, and when we’re threatened, it makes us look larger.” Indeed, this is true. Certain sounds, such as high notes or falsettos, also peak human interest because they sound like a distress signal. On the other hand, when music is played, the brain goes to a “safe space”and jumps along a scale become pleasurable, rather than worrisome.
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