Scientists Can See In Your Brain When Music Hits You Just Right

Despite the fact that there is no apparent evolutionary purpose for music, it can have a powerful effect on our brain.

A great piece of music can tickle your brain and give you literal chills. New science is unlocking how this works and is shedding light on how these chills could be linked to anticipation.

Powerful music activates the pleasure centers of the brain.


A study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience studied this emotional power of music. The researchers found that powerful music activates specific brain waves.

The brain activity seems to be connected to anticipating the rhythm of the music. As the song builds, our anticipation mounts, then we have a release. We feel chills and our brain releases dopamine.

Music might have a purpose beyond pleasure.


Generally, our brain rewards us for behavior that helps us survive. For example, eating food or mating. For music to be so powerful, there must be some benefit.

We also see music in every culture, which suggests a biological root. Although we don't know what that purpose is, one theory is that music helps people bond.

But believe it or not, not everyone feels pleasure when listening to music.


Some people have musical anhedonia, which means that they are indifferent to music. People with musical anhedonia respond to pleasure normally in other ways, just not music.

People with musical anhedonia are capable of perceiving music.


A study published in Current Biology compared people with musical anhedonia to those that had an average response to music and those that experience a lot of pleasure from music.

They found that people with musical anhedonia experienced low levels of pleasure from music when the other people felt chills.

We do not understand why music is so emotionally powerful.


We also do not know why music does not move some people. But perhaps, together, these different responses to music will teach us something. Josep Maro-Pallarés, a music anhedonia researcher, told Business Insider:

"The identification of these individuals could be very important to understanding the neural basis of music—that is, to understand how a set of notes [is] translated into emotions."

h/t: Inverse, Frontiers in Neuroscience

Filed Under: