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Nothing emotionally binds you to a song quite like experiencing spine-tingling chills whenever you listen to it. While this has long been written off as a deep appreciation for music, research published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience has uncovered fundamental differences between those who experience this physical reaction to music and those who don't.
As Business Insider reports, those who experience these chills feel more intense emotions generally, even beyond listening to music. "Emotional reactions to aesthetic stimuli are intriguing experiences to humans as they are profoundly pleasurable and rewarding, yet highly individualized," reads the study. "Finding the behavioral and neural differences between individuals who do and do not experience such reactions may help gain a better understanding of the reward circuitry and the evolutionary significance of aesthetics for humans."
To arrive at this conclusion, the researchers studied 20 students, 10 of which reported experiencing chills when listening to music. They used Diffusion Tensor Imaging MRI scans to analyze the brains of each group. Those who experienced the chills had a denser volume of brain fibers connecting the sections of the brain that process auditory information and emotion. "More fibers means you have more efficient processing between the two sections," clarifies study co-author Matthew Sachs, adding that "those with these stronger connections may feel more intense emotions generally."
So what's happening when you get goosebumps just from listening to your favorite playlist? As William Griffith, head of neuroscience and experimental therapeutics at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, explains to BI, "this response is usually triggered when we are scared or feeling threatened, as adrenaline prepares our body to defend itself or run away." However, in this case, the adrenaline is a result of a strong emotional reaction to something.
While researchers aren't sure why we produce adrenaline for this reason, another study from the University of York surmises that music can help us regulate our emotions in a healthy way. "Listening to the sound of music is a unique way to experience and engage with different contrasting emotions, helping us to understand and regulate our mood according to many different situations," write the researchers. "This makes music an important part of our overall mental wellbeing."
Have you ever experienced the chills when listening to music? Share your thoughts on the researchers' findings below.