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Science explains why we get chills listening to music

The effect is called 'Frissons', also known as skin orgasms

  • Sydney Megan Jow
  • 11 July 2016

A new study conducted at Harvard and Wesleyan University explains the phenomenon behind music 'chills', the physical and emotional reaction, a chill down the spine or hairs standing up during an especially impactful moment of a musical experience.

The sensation is called 'frissons', which are also known as 'skin orgasms'.

The new study, published in 'Social Cognitive and Affect Neuroscience' studied two groups of 10 individuals: ones that claimed to regularly experience frissons and ones that did not. Under the analysis of Diffusion Tensor Imaging, Harvard and Wesleyan's team found that individuals who experienced said effects have more nerve fibers connecting their auditory cortex to the parts of the brain that control physical sensation and emotions.

Furthermore, subjects who are more intellectually engaged with music, like those who try to predict melodic progression or experience mental imagery, are more likely to feel the strong physically emotional response.

It was also interesting to note that the brain does not widely decipher the difference between musical 'chills' and the response to sex and drugs.

Sydney is Mixmag's US Digital Content Editor. Follow her on Twitter here

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