The Loh Down On Science

Insights into why music can give us chills

Does some music literally give you the chills?  We'll tell you why!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet neuroscientists from McGill University.  They wanted to better understand why listening to music gives humans so much pleasure.

To find out, they asked eight people who consistently got "happy chills" from certain music to bring that music into the lab.

Then they connected the subjects to various devices to measure not only brain activity, but also heart rate, temperature, and clammy skin.  These are all physical effects related to the sensation we call chills. 

Next, people listened to both the chill-inspiring music and other unfamiliar music.  They rated how intense their chills were and how pleasurable the music seemed.

Turns out, listening to enjoyable music, whether familiar or new, makes our brains release dopamine.  That’s a chemical also released in response to food and other rewards.  More pleasure?  More dopamine released.

And since chills are physical responses to emotional triggers, the stronger the emotional impact, the more intense the chill.

As for chillaxin’ to music?  More scientific research is needed.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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