Psychologist Explains The Science Behind The Musical SkinGasm
In a recent article for BBC, Weslayn University psychologist Psyche Loui explained the phenomenon of musical "skin orgasms," a common reaction people have to their favorite songs that results in goosebumps, tingles and shivers. Loui was inspired to explore this phenomenon in depth with her student Luke Harrison after an early experience she had listening to Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, which she describes as a captivating experience.
An earlier study from 1991 found that both musicians and non-musicians reported feelings of trembling, flushing, sweating, and even sexual arousal while listening to their favorite pieces of music. Sudden changes in harmony, dynamics, and dissonance seem to be the culprit behind skin orgasms.
Neuroscienctists gathered data from subjects who laid in fMRI scanners while listening to music and mapped physiological changes in the brain. They found that music that breaks the listener's expectations tends to create the phenomenon of skin orgasms.
When something occurs in the music that the listener wasn't expecting, it creates frisson in the brain releasing dopamine, similar to using drugs or having sex. It is the frisson's effect on the brain that results in shivers and goosebumps.
“Musical frisson elicit a physiological change that’s locked to a particular point in the music.”