Medical Mysteries of Music

Does listening to music give you chills? Then you may have a special brain.

I believe that The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is the greatest rock song ever conceived. When Roger hits that scream towards the end–again, the greatest scream ever recorded–a shiver goes through me.

Many of us experience those sorts of chills when listening to certain songs. But apparently, many do not.

Alissa Der Sarkissian is a research assistant at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute and was curious as to why this song always gave her strange, pleasant feelings.

She says “I sort of feel that my breathing is going with the song, my heart is beating slower and I’m feeling just more aware of the song — both the emotions of the song and my body’s response to it.”

Okay. Why? And why doesn’t everyone experience this reaction?

According to research, those who get musical shivers have more fibers connecting the auditory cortex–the place in the brain that processes sound–to those parts of the brain that deal with processing emotions. More fibers equals better communication. And better communication allows music and emotions to mingle more freely.

Okay, but what sort of evolutionary process would lead to such a thing? No one knows. There doesn’t seem to a reason for being able to appreciate music to this degree.

Fascinating. USC has a podcast on the subject.

(Via Larry and IFLScience)

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38040 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

2 thoughts on “Does listening to music give you chills? Then you may have a special brain.

  • I get goosebumps if I even just think of certain songs… I play it in my head and then get them… Like the solo for Unforgiven by Metallica, The End by The Doors, Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Where did you sleep last night by Nirvana… I can go on…

  • It happens all the time to me. Especially if I have seen it played live.


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