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Musical Chills

Music can evoke moments of intense pleasure, often referred to as ‘chills’. Where do these reactions take place in the brain, and what are their triggers?

A silhouette of a human head with musical notes springing from it. Illustration.

What are musical chills?

The constellation of symptoms typically reported when feeling musical chills while listening to music corresponds closely to an increase in arousal. This arousal particularly takes place in the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in such physiological effects as goosebumps.

Different songs give chills to different people

This project aims to investigate and build on evidence that chilling music engages the brain's noradrenergic system as indexed by pupillary measures. Pleasurable music arouses the intensive attention system and draws mental effort.

Chills are idiosyncratic and occur more commonly for personally familiar songs than for other songs that have been reported to evoke chills in other people.

We are currently investigating the role of other neuromodulators, via pharmacological agents, in the pleasurable response. Moreover, we investigate what specific musical features can be triggers for the chills.


Published Mar. 11, 2020 12:55 PM - Last modified Oct. 11, 2022 9:19 AM