Study reveals that if music gives you goosebumps you might be special
Let's think back, if we can, to our favourite album. It doesn't matter if you're a fan of pop or punk, rap or reggae; everyone has a select group of songs that resonated with us in such a special way that so many moments, memories and great times will forever be associated with that album.
For example, one of my favourite bands is Weezer, but rather than talking about their debut album or 2005's Make Bellieve, my favourite album is the notoriously detested Pinkerton from 1996. Not even the band likes Pinkerton, but the likes of Getchoo, the Good Life or Pink Triangle have soundtracked prom nights, date nights and other great moments in my life.
Whenever I hear Rivers Cuomo crooning about how half-Japanese girls get him every time in the messy classic El Scorcho, I feel a sudden chill go through my body, as if a stiff breeze ran over my back, or as if I'm Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus decided to rob a bank. Goosebumps run over my skin, and I feel a certain joy.
There's a chance you've felt something similar while listening to your favourite song or songs. If not, then you're far from alone, but this study by a former Harvard undergrad says that getting goosebumps while listening to music might mean you've got a special brain.
Matthew Sachs of Harvard teamed up with Alissa Der Sarkissian, a research assistant at the University of Southern California's Brain and Creativity Institute, who says her body goes through certain changes when she listens to the song Nude by Radiohead:
"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."
Together, they looked at 20 students and their reaction to music. 10 of those students admitted they felt a certain chill when listening to their favourite songs, while others felt nothing at all, even when Slash shreds (in my opinion) the greatest guitar solo of all time in Sweet Child O' Mine.
The difference in brain activity between the two sets of students was stark; those students who felt chills when listening music had more connections between the auditory cortex of the brain and the insula and medial prefrontal cortexes (responsible for social and emotional processing), meaning that the two areas communicate better.
"The idea being that more fibers and increased efficiency between two regions means that you have more efficient processing between them," said Sachs, and even theorised that having such an emotional reaction to music could have had an evolutionary advantage.
"Our findings provide the first evidence for a neural basis of individual differences in sensory access to the reward system, and suggest that social–emotional communication through the auditory channel may offer an evolutionary basis for music making as an aesthetically rewarding function in humans."
There you have it, my audiophile friends: the next time you get chills listening to Eminem's legendary first verse of Lose Yourself, just remember that you're pretty darned special. Regardless of whether or not you have such a visceral reaction to your favourite song, let's all try to appreciate good music wherever we can find it.