How Music Affects Your Brain: Notes on the Folds | Summary and Q&A

April 27, 2019
World Science Festival
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How Music Affects Your Brain: Notes on the Folds


Researchers discuss the impact of music on the brain, including how it elicits emotional responses and why certain sounds can give people chills.

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Key Insights

  • ๐Ÿ–๏ธ Music triggers emotional responses through the fulfillment and violation of expectations, with dissonance and consonant resolutions playing a role.
  • ๐Ÿง  Music involves complex networks and regions in the brain, and different areas synchronize with rhythmic stimuli.
  • ๐ŸŽผ Emotional responses to music can be influenced by personal history, cultural background, and individual differences.
  • ๐Ÿ˜ฏ The study of music and the brain has therapeutic implications, with potential applications in speech rehabilitation, gait improvement, and mood regulation.
  • ๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿญ Music acts as a universal language, transcending cultural differences and bringing people together through shared emotional experiences.
  • ๐Ÿง  Basic research in music and neuroscience is driven by curiosity and the desire to understand the human brain, with practical applications emerging as a consequence.
  • ๐ŸŽผ Music can evoke emotional responses even when the emotions conveyed by the music differ from the listener's current emotional state.


Our panel today looks at the chill effect. We've all had it, that moment when you hear something in a piece of music, and shivers run down your spine or the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Mari's piece, Alt has a kind of ghostly quality, which is why she's chosen it for us today. Mari is obviously not the only person that will be on... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why does music often give people chills or create a shivery feeling?

The shivery feeling commonly experienced while listening to music is attributed to the interplay between unexpected sounds (dissonance) and consonant resolutions. These dissonant and consonant sounds elicit emotional responses, triggering a physical reaction such as chills.

Q: Is the emotional response to music universal or individual?

While there are common elements of emotional responses to music, individual and cultural factors can also influence how people interpret and experience music. Personal history, familiarity with the music, and individual differences all play a role in shaping emotional responses.

Q: What brain processes are involved when listening to music?

Listening to music engages various regions and networks in the brain, including those associated with auditory processing, emotion, motor coordination, and reward. The brain synchronizes with the rhythm and sound of the music, and different brain areas respond to different compositional elements.

Q: Can neuroscience help predict emotional responses to music?

While some predictors, such as personal history and context, can inform individual emotional responses to music, there is still significant variability across different individuals. Neuroscience studies can provide insights into the factors that contribute to emotional responses, but predicting individual experiences remains challenging.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Music has a profound impact on the brain, and certain sounds can trigger emotional responses in individuals.

  • Rhythm and harmony play a significant role in how the brain responds to music, with different intervals and chord changes influencing emotional experiences.

  • The brain's response to music is complex and involves various regions and networks, including those associated with social and emotional processing.

  • Individual experiences and cultural backgrounds can shape how people respond to music, but there are also universal elements that elicit emotional reactions.

  • Research in this field can contribute to understanding the structure of the brain, the nature of music, and potential therapeutic applications.

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