Why Your Favorite Song Is Music to Your Ears — and Your Brain

A woman with headphones on lying on the couch
Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

Ever get chills listening to your favorite music — an old song that brings back memories, or a soaring symphony that transports you to another place? There’s a word for those chills: frissons. Lots of people experience them and they’re an emotional response to music through a complex interaction that happens deep inside your brain. When music wafts through your ears, it enters the auditory pathways of your brain, where the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine floods into your system and gives you that tingly sensation of pleasure.

To learn more, check out these articles on Staying Sharp: Want to Change Your Mood? Listen to Your Favorite Songs

But this sensation isn’t the same for everyone. New research shows that this lovely little chill happens more often with people who have stronger connections in these pathways. Who are these lucky folks? It’s more likely to be people with music training and those who are more open to new experiences. No matter how much you love music, your brain connectivity determines whether you experience frissons. But whether it tingles your spine or just gives you some ordinary enjoyment, you’re doing your brain a favor when you listen to music.

To find out more, read Why Your Favorite Songs Give You a Thrill

This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.

Search AARP Blogs