Have you ever listened to a song that was so good that it didn’t just make you want to get up and dance, but it made the hairs on your arms stand up? Or a chill run up your spine? These pleasurable sensations in response to music are called frisson – or ‘aesthetic chills’ – and not everyone experiences them.
Matthew Sachs, a former undergraduate from Harvard, studied students who experienced frisson in response to music to see just how this feeling is manifested.
In his study, Sachs took brain scans of 20 students, 10 who reported getting goosebumps while listening to music, and 10 who did not. He discovered that those who experienced frisson actually had a more complex brain structure than those who did not. His research showed that they had more nerve fibers connected between the auditory cortex and areas of the brain that process emotions.
“The idea being that more fibers and increased efficiency between two regions means that you have more efficient processing between them,” Sachs said.
This means that if you experience pleasurable physical sensations (goosebumps, chills, a lump in the throat, etc.) while listening to music, you likely have stronger emotions and a more active imagination than most people. The same sensations can be felt when listening to certain songs that bring old memories to the surface. The genre of music listened to does not appear to be a factor, as “sad” music can still have a positive effect.
Sachs is currently conducting additional research to see if its possible to evoke specific emotional reactions when listening to music. He hopes the results of his study will pinpoint the cause of these neurological reactions, possibly leading to a form of treatment for anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders.
“Depression causes an inability to experience pleasure of everyday things,” Sachs said. “You could use music with a therapist to explore feelings.”
This content was inspired by an article that can be found here.