I know that studying music from a neurological standpoint is still a pretty rare thing in the scientific community, but do scientists have any ideas about physiological reasons why listening to certain pieces of music gives us the chills?
Emotion and memory are linked to your body and can illicit physiological responses. Music can cause emotional changes and trigger memories.
Actually I think there is quite a lot of research in this sort of area.
Unfortunately its a bit too far from my area of expertise to add much of use myself but if you google "physiological response music" you'll turn up lots of fascinating research like the study at:
This is not my subject area, so I had to ask around. A cellist friend pointed me to an article from 2005 (Blood and Zatorre, PNAS 98:11818 –11823). Basically, the authors took 10 people with musical training and asked them each to select a piece of music that gave them the chills. They then played the selected music to these individuals while taking MRI scans of their brains to see where the neural activity was occuring. What they found was that regions of the brain associated with classic reward/motivation circuitry, such as seen in response to food or sex, were active. In contrast, swapping the subjects musical selections and repeating the same experiment resulted only in a general pleasurable response seen with consonant sounds. In other words, the individually tailored pieces of music are probably co-opting pre-existing pleasure circuitry in the brain to produce the chills. Which is remarkable, as music is a relatively late cognitive addition to our species.
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