Music is emotional and for some of us our brains are wired to “feel” music more

Research suggests that there is a biological reason that some of us get shivers when we listen to a powerful piece of music as some of us are more predisposed to emotionally respond to songs.

Some people are total music fanatics who listen from the moment they wake up to the second they go to sleep and others might just listen to the radio in the car. Whatever your obsession level is pretty much everyone likes at least some music. It has an ability to transcend established forms of communications and speak to us on another level. A new study suggests there may be a reason that music affects some of us so much more deeply than others.

In the recent Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience journal, a study found that there is a chemical reaction that happens in the brain to cause stronger sensations for some listeners rather than them simply enjoying music more. They studied 20 students, half of whom reported that they felt chills when they listened to music, and used Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) to examine the differences in brain responses by mapping out the brain as the two groups listened to music that they had selected themselves as they knew it gave them chills.

The study found that those who reported chills when listening had a denser volume of brain fibres that connect the parts of the brain for emotional responses and processing audio. Matthew Sachs who co-authored the study from the University of Southern California explains that more fibres mean that there is more efficient processing between the two sections the fibres are connecting.

The study reads: “Survey responses showed that people who are open to experience and have more musical training are more likely to report strong emotional responses… Survey results confirmed that substantial individual differences exist in the tendency to experience strong emotional responses to music, and that these individual differences are dependent on behavioural and personality factors. Real-time ratings of experienced pleasure and psycho-physiological measures recorded during music listening showed quantifiable differences between individuals who report experiencing chills and individuals who do not.”

The study concludes with a consideration of whether this effect could go beyond music, reading: “Although it remains to be seen whether the tendency to perceive strong emotional responses to music may be generalisable towards other aesthetic stimuli (such as visual art, dance, poetry or architecture), the present paradigm of comparing individual differences in aesthetic response through music may provide a window into the interface between the emotion and communication systems in the brain.”

You can read the full study here.

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