Have you ever felt chills up your spine and got goosebumps when listening to a piece of music? Some of us react more intensely to music than others. Scientists have now unravelled a few theories behind why music has such an incredible ability to trigger such powerful emotions. The staff at School of Popular Music, who offer music lessons in Guernsey, take a look at recent studies that delve into the link between biology and music.
I’ve got chills, they’re multiplying…
According to a new study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, there’s a deeper reason for some people experiencing chills than them simply appreciating music more than others. MRI scans of twenty students show that the ten who reported experiencing chills when listening to music had a denser volume of brain fibres that connect the sections that process auditory information and emotions.
Not only does having more fibres indicate a more efficient processing between the two sections, it also shows that those with these stronger connections may feel more intense emotions generally, not just when listening to music.
Music really is a drug
According to a team of researchers, when we are moved by music, our brain behaves as though it is reacting to psychoactive drugs or delicious food. The pleasure experience is driven by dopamine, a chemical which has been linked to addiction, as it produces physical effects known as ‘chills’ that cause changes in the skin’s temperature and electrical conductance. The release of dopamine seems to be greatest when listeners have a strong emotional response to music, with the chemical’s levels peaking just before that special note or chord finally occurs, flooding certain areas in your brain and increasing activity in the nucleus accumbens, which in turn, causes goose bumps or chills.
Sad music evokes goosebumps
What is fascinating is that neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp has found that people more often feel such chills or goose bumps when listening to music that evokes a sad feeling or memory, as opposed to a positive one. The amygdala may also be involved in this process, due to the emotions stirred up by certain songs that may be more melancholic in nature.
Loudness, Tempo & Pitch
Researcher Dr Schubert has observed that ‘loudness, tempo and pitch have a measurable impact on people’s emotional response to music.’ Through his study, he found that arousal is associated with a composition’s loudness, and to a lesser extent, its tempo.
Listening to music is therefore a truly abstract form of pleasure. The profound feelings we experience – and the goosebumps music evokes – likely have their origins rooted deep in our evolutionary past. Our staff at School of Popular Music are passionate and offer the best music lessons Guernsey has to offer. We give singing and instrument lessons, so whether you’re looking for piano, drums, violin or guitar lessons in Guernsey, we are the school for you!