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Whether it’s classical music, rock n’ roll or a single guitar strumming up a beat, if music gives you chills, scientists say you have a certain type of brain. Alissa Der Sarkissian, a research assistant at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute, noticed that she had a strange feeling when she listened to the song “Nude” by Radiohead. So she decided to investigate.
“I sort of feel that my breathing is going with the song, my heart is beating slower and I’m feeling just more aware of the song — both the emotions of the song and my body’s response to it,” she explained.
Der Sarkissian is a student at Harvard University. She enlisted her friend Matthew Sachs, a PhD student at USC to research the phenomenon. They wanted to look into how brain activity differs between people who get chills in reaction to music and those who don’t. Their research was reported in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.
Der Sarkissian and Sachs found that people who get shivers up and down their spine in response to music have more fibers connecting their auditory cortex to brain areas associated with emotional processing. This allows the two areas to communicate more efficiently, which suggests that people who get chills from music experience intense emotions differently from those who don’t.
Sachs explained, “The idea being that more fibers and increased efficiency between two regions mean that you have more efficiency between two regions mean that you have more efficient processing between them.”
The authors of the study concluded, “Together, the present results may inform scientific as well as philosophical theories on the evolutionary origins of human aesthetics, specifically of music: perhaps one of the reasons why music is a cross-culturally indispensable artifact is that it appeals directly through an auditory channel to emotional and social processing centers of the human brain.”
If you get shivers up and down your spine when you hear your favorite song or a moving melody, it’s a sign that you experience intense emotions a bit differently than others, and your brain is quite unique!
Listen to the podcast below for more information on the study:
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
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