There’s a new study on how music gives us chills (and which songs will do it)

We’ve all experienced moments when a piece of music sends a shiver through our bodies. Scientists call this “emotion arousal” and is experienced by almost everyone.

A new piece of research called “The Rewarding Aspects of Music Listening Are Related to Degree of Emotional Arousal” at reads like this:

The intensity of pleasure experienced from music listening has led some researchers to suggest that it may act upon the dopamine reward system of the brain, which is implicated in processing highly rewarding stimuli such as cocaine and amphetamines, food, and playing videogames. The assumption that music may also involve this system is largely based on brain imaging findings that have found increasing blood flow or oxygenation to striatal regions of the brain that are implicated in reward…

Assessment of emotional responses to music, particularly the ability for music to induce highly pleasurable feelings, has become a topic of interest to music researchers with practical implications for music composition, therapy, and marketing. The present data provide a direct link between emotions and pleasure in music listening, and reveal new avenues for research to examine whether strongly felt emotions can be rewarding in themselves in the absence of a physically tangible reward or a specific functional goal.

Translation: These sensations are real and are worthy of further study.

Most of the chill-inducing music in the research came from classical sources. But there were some alt-rock and alt-rock chillers. Here’s what they recorded in test subjects:

  • David Matthews Band, #34: Subject’s chills recorded at the 1:40 mark of the song.
  • Everclear, El Distorto Melodico, 00:30 and 1:20
  • Children of Bodom, their metal version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, 1:13
  • Explosions in the Sky, First Breath After Coma, 2:25, 3:30, 8:10
  • Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Storm, 3:37
  • Pink Floyd, Shine on You Crazy Diamond, 5:00
  • Led Zeppelin, Moby Dick, 00:32

The full list of songs and their chill points can be found here.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.