When Music Gives You Chills


You’re sitting in a comfy chair, eyes closed, completely engulfed in listening to a favorite piece of music when it hits you, chills that run up your spine and across your skin.  This reaction, known as frisson, only occurs in about a half to two-thirds of the population according to an article published by Jason Daley on The Smithsonian website on June 20th.

According to the article, past research has shown that dopamine “floods through the body” when one experiences the chills, but a new study published in the journal, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience sought to find out exactly what happens to the brain when frisson occurs.


in the study who experienced the chills were found to, “have more nerve fibers connecting auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes sound, to their anterior insular cortex, a region involved in processing feelings” in comparison to their fellow subjects who never experienced frisson themselves.

So, emotional connections and reactions to music is one cause of the chills, but another study finds that taking a more intellectual approach can also cause an increase in the chill factor as well.

A study preformed by doctoral student Mitchell Colver finds that, “people engaged in the music more intellectually, like trying to predict the melody or putting mental imagery to the music, were more likely to get a shiver when the music deviated from their expectations in a positive way.”

Whether it’s emotional or intellectual, for some, the experience of listening to music just wouldn’t be the same without that wonderfully spine tingling feeling.

You can read the full article over on thesmithsonianmag.com.