Medical Mysteries of Music

Published on October 31st, 2017 | by Alan Cross

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Does Music Give You Goosebumps? Then Your Brain Might be “Special”

Listening to a good song can bring on all kinds of physical reaction. You may be moved to dance, to unconsciously bob your head or tap your foot. You may feel a shiver. And in some cases, you might even get goosebumps as the song plays.

Or you may not. What’s going on?

A former undergraduate at Harvard named Matthew Sachs was interested in physical reactions (or lack thereof) in humans. He looked at 20 students, 10 of whom said they often experienced chills, shivers and goosebumps when they heard certain types of music. The other 10 self-reported that music did not have this sort of effect on them. They loved music but it didn’t seem to touch them in the same physiological way.

Everyone got brain scans. Those people who reported having physical responses to music seemed to have different brain structures than those fans who didn’t experience them.

Basically, the fibres that connect the auditory cortex to the areas of the brain that process emotions are denser. This seems to mean that the two areas of squishy grey stuff can communicate more efficiently. The result? Stronger emotional connections. Physical sensations. Great associations with memories that are connected to specific songs.

Well, so what? This could be a window on the cause and eventual treatment to certain physiological conditions.

Take depression, for example. Anyone who has experienced depression knows that you just can’t find joy and pleasure in anything. Could this research be helpful? Could music be used as a drug-free sort of depression therapy?

Read more here.




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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