Saturday, May 28, 2016
Frisson or 'Skin Orgasm'
Frisson or 'Skin Orgasm' - What causes a thrill, followed by a chill?
Have you ever been listening to a great piece of music and felt a chill run up your spine? Or goosebumps tickle your arms and shoulders?
Listening to emotionally moving music is the most common trigger of frisson, but some feel it while looking at beautiful artwork, watching a particularly moving scene in a movie or having physical contact with another person. Studies have shown that roughly two-thirds of the population feels frisson.
While scientists are still unlocking the secrets of this phenomenon, a large body of research over the past five decades has traced the origins of frisson to how we emotionally react to unexpected stimuli in our environment, particularly music.
Musical passages that include unexpected harmonies, sudden changes in volume or the moving entrance of a soloist are particularly common triggers for frisson because they violate listeners’ expectations in a positive way.
Scientists have found that the pleasurable experience of listening to music releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain important for more tangible pleasures associated with rewards such as food, drugs and sex.
Scientists measured dopamine release in response to music that elicited "chills," changes in skin conductance, heart rate, breathing, and temperature that were correlated with pleasurability ratings of the music. 'Chills' or 'musical frisson' is a well established marker of peak emotional responses to music.
A novel combination of PET and fMRI brain imaging techniques, revealed that dopamine release is greater for pleasurable versus neutral music, and that levels of release are correlated with the extent of emotional arousal and pleasurability ratings. Dopamine is known to play a pivotal role in establishing and maintaining behavior that is biologically necessary.