If Music Gives You Goosebumps, Here’s What It May Say About Your Brain

twins flamesDo you ever listen to music and feel the hairs on your arm or neck standing up? Perhaps it makes you feel like crying? It may mean that you have a strong connection between specific parts of your brain.

Right now I’m listening to one of my favorite songs as I write this. I tend to get either joyous waves or chills depending on what I may be relating the song to as I listen. More on this below.

Matthew Sachs, a former undergraduate at Harvard, decided he wanted to find out why people got chills when they would listen to music and what might be triggering this feeling.

His research experiment took a look at 20 students and their feelings when listening to music. 10 students admitted to feeling chills or having goosebumps when they hear music. The other 10 did not. Brain scans were taken of all 20 students and the results were analyzed.

Of the 10 who had stated they experience strong emotional connection to music and felt ‘chills’ when listening, displayed a different brain structure than those who claimed to not experience ‘chills’ when listening to music.

The area of the brain in question here is that of the auditory cortex and those that process emotions. What was found was that those who experienced the feeling of ‘chills’ while listening to music had denser or stronger fibres connecting the areas of the brain in question. This means that the two areas can communicate better.

Sachs’s published his findings on Oxford Academic but he is quoted by Neuroscience as saying:

“The idea being that more fibers and increased efficiency between two regions means that you have more efficient processing between them.”

In audio engineering school I learned fibres, cables, or wiring is like having a thick smoothie in front of you and having different straw choices. You have a thin straw or a thick one, which one can you more easily drink the smoothie from? This is the same with audio cables sending data or sound. The same seems to be in the theory discussed above. The denser the fibre, the easier it is to send the energy, or data, from one area of the brain to the other.

What Do The Chills Mean?

While it’s not 100% clear, they may mean you have a more intense connection to feeling emotions. It may also mean that your memories linked to a certain songs may be strong.

All in all, our emotions are physical experiences triggered by something our mind believes. Often times it is a belief system or program we have associated with an experience or how to feel about it that triggers a specific emotion. Thus, different people can feel different emotions about the same experience, as it’s based on a belief about the experience.

Although Sachs’ study was very small in size, he is currently working to conduct further research to explore the brains activity when listening to songs that register certain reactions. He hopes to physically discover what causes these reactions and potentially determine treatment for psychological disorders based on these findings.

Because depression causes an inability to experience pleasure of everyday life, music can be used to help provide therapy to those suffering.

My Own Feeling

Even if you do not experience strong emotions from listening to music, the exploration into connecting to our emotions and understanding them is key. Emotions simply tell us more about ourselves inside. And while we may experience a certain emotion about something at one time, this doesn’t mean we will always experience that emotion, or any at all, about that experience.

In fact, beyond emotions is a state of peace that we sometimes can confuse for emotions. I have found that when I am feeling my absolute best, I am experiencing a state of being that is pure peace, pure love and beyond emotions. This isn’t to say I don’t feel emotions in those times, but it’s a connection into knowing what’s beyond the physical experience of an emotion.

I have always found that emotions are a reference point that allow us to experience something more deeply and intently. And when we examine what that means about ourselves, we gain a greater sense of self awareness.

Given that some of us often feel very disconnected in our lives and given how much of the population experiences depression, it’s not all that surprising that even in a small group that Sachs studied, 50% did not report experiencing that connection with music.

What would come from humanity having greater connection to our emotions and understanding them? Would they not drive us and take over as much when we did experience them? Might we be able to understand why we get angry at times and perhaps explore how to move past those triggers and lessen suffering? After all, why do some of us get mad at an experience while another doesn’t? Why do some of us feel upset at being called a name while others don’t? And do you notice those who don’t get upset rarely get called names? Do we attract the experiences that can help us learn more about ourselves?

These are all deeper questions that I believe can help move us beyond suffering induced by our lack of awareness of our emotions and why they can be triggered. That said, emotions are not a bad thing by any means, they are incredible. They allow us to enrich our experience ten fold at times. I simply feel we are being challenged to not be driven so intensely by our emotions.


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