The science of “chills”

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At POSmusic, we’re always trying to understand why the hair on the back of our necks stand up when we hear our favourite song.

Of course we’re not alone, and as the Guardian reports, our scholarly friends at Harvard University have taken up the challenge of unravelling the mysteries of music, by enlisting volunteers- along with “modern brain scanning equipment”- to participate in a series of experiments aiming to evoke what we’ve come to refer to as “the chills”.

Graduate student Matthew Sachs academically notes: “I’ve always been fascinated by how a collection of tones changing over time has the ability to evoke these very strong sensations”. It’s this “collection of tones” that separated the “chill” and “no chill” groups, who volunteered for personality questionnaires and brain scans before being tested for physiological musical responses.

As we all know, there’s no better place to indulge in our favourite sonic delights than a the soothing surrounds of scientific lab, and it’s here our volunteers were treated to their ultimate pleasure playlists, which included the obligatory operatic piece (Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde) alongside contemporary classics like Coldplay’s Strawberry Swing (yes, really).

Looking at how connected different regions of our brains were when listening to the volunteers favourites, the work aims to reveal how music can have an effect on human physiology. You can read more about this endeavour here.

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