According to science, if you ever get them goosebumps during certain songs, it’s not just because you’re reminded of a lost love or have any specific artistic inclination. It’s because your brain is different and you’re basically a freak.
That overwhelming tingling sound of the guitar in Paul Weller’s rendition of Thinking Of You that makes your eyes water, or the chorus in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony that brings a massive lump in the back of your throat, those are unique moments that certainly make life special.
But a recent study published in Oxford Academic dumps on the romance of the experience by explaining it’s due to a singularity in some people’s brains.
Matthew Sachs, a former undergraduate at Harvard, scanned the brain of 20 individuals, half of which admitted to experiencing goosebumps and other similar strong feelings to music and half who didn’t.
Alissa Der Sarkissian, a friend of Sachs and research assistant at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute explained her reactions to 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,” she said.
Sachs discovered that those who had an emotional and physical response to music like Alissa actually have different brain structures to those who didn’t.
His study revealed that the subjects that showed strong reactions tended to have a significantly denser volume of the fibres that process emotions and connect to their auditory cortex, supposedly allowing the two areas to communicate more efficiently.
Sachs said to Neuroscience News that, “The idea being that more fibers and increased efficiency between two regions means that you have more efficient processing between them.”
Sachs acknowledges the size of the study is still too small to be conclusive, but he is currently doing further research at the University of Southern California. His study may encourage other scientists to learn more about the physiological workings behind these reactions, which may help with developing effective treatment for psychological malaises like manic-depressive disorder.
“Depression causes an inability to experience pleasure of everyday things,” Sachs says. “You could use music with a therapist to explore feelings.”