If you get a chill running up your spine when you hear a song you love, you might have a special brain.
Researchers from the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute dove into this subject after one research assistant noticed something strange about how they react to music.
Alissa Der Sarkissian would later tell USC News that she was motivated to work on the project after noticing a strange feeling she gets when listening to the song “Nude” by Radiohead.
Research assistant’s neurological response to Radiohead.
Many people reading this have likely had some type of reaction to a Radiohead song before as well. Perhaps listening to “Creep” gives you goosebumps, or “My Iron Lung” gives you chills, or maybe the video for “Just” makes you confused and frustrated at not knowing why all those people were laying on the ground.
Many of us have had strange reactions when listening to Radiohead, but few have ever researched this scientifically.
Der Sarkissian noted that listening to Radiohead brings about physiological changes in her body.
“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,” she explained.
The difference between those who get chills from music and those that don’t.
On the surface, it might seem as though this is a topic that transcends science. Can the scientific method really break down our subjective experience of listening to music? It turns out it can.
The researchers at USC submitted their findings to the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience journal.
Amazingly, the researchers were actually able to note physical differences between the brains of people who get chills listening to music and those that do not. The difference appears to be that those who do get chills have more fibers in their brain that connect the auditory cortex area to areas of the brain associated with emotions.
In a nutshell, these people have more neural pathways connecting the brain’s auditory and emotional centers.
So, it’s not just that Radiohead is a good band?
“The idea being that more fibers and increased efficiency between two regions mean that you have more efficient processing between them,” explained Matthew Sachs, the project’s lead researcher.
People who have a more emotional response to music have, in a sense, a bigger and more sturdy bridge connecting the areas of the brain which process both. It is an interesting concept for researchers to study as there is no clear evolutionary advantage that this would provide.
Perhaps, nature just wants some people to have a better appreciation for music than others.
“Together, the present results may inform scientific as well as philosophical theories on the evolutionary origins of human aesthetics, specifically of music: perhaps one of the reasons why music is a cross-culturally indispensable artifact is that it appeals directly through an auditory channel to emotional and social processing centers of the human brain,” reads the conclusion of the study.
You can learn more about how your brain processes music in the below video.
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