A study was conducted by a former Harvard undergraduate named Matthew Sachs and it has shown that those who get chills and goosebumps while listening to music may have a different brain structure than those who do not get any goosebumps while listening to music.
The study, entitled "Brain Connectivity Reflects Human Aesthetic Responses to Music" was published on Oxford Academic. It states that those who experience chills and goosebumps while listening to music have a denser volume of fibers that connect their auditory cortex to the areas of their brain that process emotion.
What happens to your brain when you get chills
The study suggests that the denser fiber in the brain means that the auditory and emotion-processing areas of the brain of those who get chills are better able to communicate with each other, thus the stronger reaction they have to what is called musical stimuli. Sachs also concluded in his study that those who get the chills have a higher tendency to experience more intense emotions than those people who do not feel anything while listening to music.
Sachs stated that the idea being that more fibers and increased efficiency between two regions mean that you have more efficient processing between them.
To conduct the study, Sachs chose a total of 20 individuals, with an age range between 18 to 34, 8 males, 12 females, 18 right-handed persons, 1 left-handed person in each group, from a random group of 237 people who answered a survey that assesses individuals's background in and engagement with music.
Ten of the people he chose stated that they have experienced getting tingling sensation or goosebumps when listening to a particular song, while the other ten is from those who said that they have no such experience.
The participants of the study were then asked to submit 3 to 5 songs, for the group that experience chills, they submitted songs that always gave them goosebumps. For the group that does not experience chills, they submitted a song that they enjoy the most. The resulting list included songs like Bon Iver's Flume, Coldplay's Strawberry Swing, N'Sync's This I Promise You, Kanye West's Power, The Beatles' Revolution, and many others.
Each participant was made to listen to 3 of the songs that they listed and 3 songs listed by other people. According to the study, while they were listening to each excerpt, participants rated their emotional responses using a slide rule ranging from 0 to 10, 0 is equivalent to neutral or no pleasure while 10 is equivalent to high pleasure. If a chill happened, participants were instructed to press and hold the space bar on the keyboard for the duration of the chill.
Sachs also used DTI or Diffusion Tensor Imaging, a kind of MRI-based technique, to scan the brains of each participant.
Music and goosebumps
While the study only deals with the human response to sounds, Sachs believes that the results of his research can inform philosophical and scientific theories on the evolutionary origins of human aesthetics. He said that the study could also help researchers figure out why music and other forms of art are labeled as an indispensable artifact that exists in all human cultures in history.