Finding balance in the second half of life

Posts Tagged ‘music’

Chill

In Survival on January 22, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Children’s choirs almost always do it to me. That eerie, almost spiritual frisson that starts in the vicinity of the shoulder blades and tickles its way up the back of my neck, raising hairs like little sensors as it moves.

Musical chills — measurable physical changes in skin conductance (as well as heart rate, breathing patterns, and body temperature) — signify an intense emotional response to music. A new study from McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (affectionately known as The Neuro) suggests that these chills are built-in to the human brain’s “reward circuitry” — the release of mood-enhancing hormones that evolved to reinforce survival behaviors like eating and having sex.

Although it’s still unclear why listening to music would have helped our ancestors live long enough to procreate, the new research has established that higher levels of dopamine are released when people listen to music that evokes chills than when they listen to non-chill-factor tunes.

Even more interesting — to me at least — is perusing the list of chill  excerpts provided by study participants asked for examples of shiver-provoking music. The selections range from the highly expected (Barber’s Adagio for Strings) to the slightly surprising (Led Zeppelin?) to the unheard of (by me) “Techno” strains of some person, group, or machine called Tiesto.

I’m heading over to iTunes to check some of them out in hopes of creating my own shivery, dopamine-inducing playlist.

–Debra Wierenga

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