Why does music give us chills? The addictive powers of music

Chances are that if you consider yourself a music lover, you’ve likely experienced that ‘chill’ sensation when listening to music at some point or another. It catches you off guard, leaves your skin tingling all over and can even put a knot in your stomach.

New research shows that whether it be a particular chord on a piano, or a Whitney Houston powerhouse note – it’s been shown that the ‘music chill’ is actually one of the most naturally embedded sensations that we can feel…Here’s a little more why!



Also known as ‘frisson’, there have been a lot of studies on the chilling effect of music that show that when we listen to our favourite songs, our bodies naturally release more of our feel good chemical – dopamine.

Dopamine is notoriously a crucial part in the addiction process and helps create that same feeling when you eat your favourite foods, receive a notification on your phone or gamble. So yes, that does mean that if you have the right kind of personality and tendencies, music can be a fully addictive force that for some of us, our bodies simply can’t live without craving!

One study took this concept a little further and has theorised that not only can music create this innate feeling, but when we are able to predict what happens next in a song, that our bodies even reward us with yet another dopamine fix…That’s what makes those melodic shifts, or crescendos in an orchestral piece so satisfying! 

Thibault Chabin, a PhD student at the University Burgundy Franche-Comté who led the study, said: “What is most intriguing is that music seems to have no biological benefit to us. However, the implication of dopamine and of the reward system in processing of musical pleasure suggests an ancestral function for music.”

We think that’s pretty amazing! But what does this really mean? 

The overarching point here is that music has an entirely unique ability to make us ‘feel’ things in the most bizarre way. Hearing the right song at the right time can send your body on a complete rollercoaster. Everything from your blood rushing to those dancing feet, pupil dilations and heart rate increases, it’s almost the equivalent of your body falling in love…All from the power of sound! 

Does it work for all genres? 

As with all things musical, this is an incredibly personal preference and any genre can induce those spine tingling chills, it’s all down to the individual. More of a classical person? Then perhaps Tchaikovsky will set you off, or maybe if rock is more your cup of tea tDid hen perhaps the first notes of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ hit that sweet spot just right.

What do you find tickles your skin the most? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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