How music affects your brain and gives you chills

Music is a universal language that can evoke powerful emotions in listeners. But what happens in the brain when music causes chills, a sensation of shivering or goosebumps that some people experience when listening to emotionally stirring melodies? A recent study by researchers from Israel and the US has shed some light on this fascinating phenomenon.

Music triggers theta waves and dopamine release in the brain

The study, published in the Nature Neuroscience journal, used electroencephalography (EEG) devices to measure the brain activity of 18 participants who listened to music that gave them chills. The researchers found that the chills were linked to the activation of theta waves in the orbito-frontal cortex, a region of the brain involved in emotional processing. Theta waves are slow brain waves that occur during deep relaxation, meditation, and dreaming.

How music affects your brain and gives you chills
How music affects your brain and gives you chills

The researchers also found that music triggered the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure, reward, and motivation. Dopamine levels were higher for pleasurable music than for neutral music, and correlated with the intensity of emotional arousal and pleasurability ratings. The researchers suggested that music might act as a natural reward that stimulates the brain’s reward system.

Music activates motor and social brain regions during sleep

The same study also explored the effects of music on the brain during sleep, a state of reduced consciousness and awareness. The researchers played music and words to the participants while they were asleep, and recorded their brain activity using EEG and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

They found that the brain’s response to sound during sleep was almost as strong as during wakefulness, indicating that the brain was still processing auditory information even when unconscious. However, they also noticed that the alpha-beta waves, which are brain waves that reflect neural feedback from other parts of the brain, were attenuated during sleep. This means that the brain was less engaged in higher cognitive functions, such as attention and expectation, while asleep.

Interestingly, the researchers also observed that music activated two brain regions that are related to motor control and social communication: the supplementary motor area and the superior temporal gyrus. These regions are involved in planning and executing movements, and interpreting non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions and gestures. The researchers speculated that music might elicit a two-way reward response in the brain, influencing both emotional and motor-social aspects.

Music is a powerful and mysterious stimulus for the brain

The study’s findings reveal some of the mechanisms behind music’s chills, and how music affects the brain in different states of consciousness. Music is a complex and rich stimulus that can activate multiple brain regions and systems, and elicit a range of emotional and physiological responses. Music can also have therapeutic benefits, such as reducing stress, enhancing memory, and improving mood.

However, music’s impact on the brain is still not fully understood, and there are many questions that remain unanswered. For example, why do some people experience chills while others do not? What are the genetic and environmental factors that influence musical preferences and abilities? How does music interact with other sensory modalities, such as vision and touch? And how does music shape our culture and society?

These are some of the intriguing questions that researchers hope to answer in the future, as they continue to unravel the mysteries of music and the brain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *