What Happens in the Brain When Music Causes Chills?

needle

(via Smithsonian.com)

by Jason Daley

For some people it’s David Bowie. For others it’s Franz Liszt. But regardless of the genre, when the right chords combine, many people will get goose bumps or a chill up the spine.

Somewhere between a half to two-thirds of the population have this reaction, yet scientists have long debated why. Past research has shown that when experiencing “the chills,” the neurotransmitter dopamine floods through the body. But a new study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience details what happens in the brain when the soprano hits the high note, reports Ian Sample for The Guardian.

These reactions are known as frissons—an aesthetic chill also sometimes called a “skin orgasm,” Mitchell Colver, doctoral student at Utah State University, writes for The Conversation. Though they are usually associated with listening to music, some can even get the willies while looking at art or watching a movie.

To investigate what happens in the brain during the chills, a group of researchers from Harvard and Wesleyan University selected ten people who claimed that they regularly experience a frisson while listening to music. He also selected ten subjects who never experienced the phenomenon.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/researchers-look-what-happens-brain-when-music-causes-chills-180959481/#cVKDio9kI1TgMY2Y.99

Video of the Week: How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain

New Ways Into the Brain’s ‘Music Room’

music room

by Natalie Angier via The New York Times

Whether to enliven a commute, relax in the evening or drown out the buzz of a neighbor’s recreational drone, Americans listen to music nearly four hours a day. In international surveys, people consistently rank music as one of life’s supreme sources of pleasure and emotional power. We marry to music, graduate to music, mourn to music. Every culture ever studied has been found to make music, and among the oldest artistic objects known are slender flutes carved from mammoth bone some 43,000 years ago — 24,000 years before the cave paintings of Lascaux.

Given the antiquity, universality and deep popularity of music, many researchers had long assumed that the human brain must be equipped with some sort of music room, a distinctive piece of cortical architecture dedicated to detecting and interpreting the dulcet signals of song. Yet for years, scientists failed to find any clear evidence of a music-specific domain through conventional brain-scanning technology, and the quest to understand the neural basis of a quintessential human passion foundered.

Now researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have devised a radical new approach to brain imaging that reveals what past studies had missed. By mathematically analyzing scans of the auditory cortex and grouping clusters of brain cells with similar activation patterns, the scientists have identified neural pathways that react almost exclusively to the sound of music — any music. It may be Bach, bluegrass, hip-hop, big band, sitar or Julie Andrews. A listener may relish the sampled genre or revile it. No matter. When a musical passage is played, a distinct set of neurons tucked inside a furrow of a listener’s auditory cortex will fire in response.

Read more: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/02/09/science/new-ways-into-the-brains-music-room.html?_r=0

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