Why Music Gives You Goose Pimples

12/12/2010 09:32 | Updated 22 May 2015

music affects the hypothalamusMusic creates emotions that stimulate the hypothalamus. Photo: Flickr, downing.amanda

Maybe it's Angels by Robbie Williams, John Lennon's Imagine or the stirring hymn Jerusalem that does it for you. Gives you goose pimples, that is. You know, that shivery feeling you get on the back of your neck when you hear a tune you love.

As psychologists know, most people are affected emotionally by music, with the sensations you get when you hear a tune you really connect with described as aesthetic chills, thrills, shivers, frisson and even skin orgasms. That's right, skin orgasms.

If you've ever wondered why that happens, rest assured that many experts have studied the phenomenon. Apparently the emotions that are evoked by a piece of music that means something to you stimulate a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. And the hypothalamus is responsible for controlling powerful emotions including anger and the drive to have sex, as well as involuntary reactions such as like blushing and goose pimples.

So when your emotions are fired up by a piece of music, your hypothalamus gives you goose pimples (or perhaps from now on we should call them skin orgasms).

Scientists from the University of North Carolina, however, have just published a study on how your personality determines whether or not you get musical shivers more often than not. And apparently those who are open to new experiences - for instance, those who listen to lots of different types of music and who enjoy art - get that hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-the-neck sensation the most often.

What piece of music gives you goose pimples whenever you hear it?

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