Warning! Music Can Cause ‘Skin Orgasms’: Are You Ready?
How about a new phenomenon sensation in music? How far can our feelings get? Could you ever imagine that some of us feel melodies so strongly that sensation music causes can be compared with love or sex? Music definitely affects one’s mind and body, so today, we’ll talk about this musical phenomenon. You will see how it is possible to feel happy while listening to the pure and beautiful sound.
People describe their sensations in different ways:
- “It’s like a lightning bolt”
- “A chill down the spine”
- “Sound causes a racing heart”
And this is only part of what people say about their emotions and feelings. In fact, sound experience from the aesthetic perspective might be so intense that one can’t help it or do anything else other than just enjoy the music.
Psyche Loui, a musician, a psychology and neuroscience researcher, states that one doesn’t need to be a violinist or pianist to experience songs sensationally. The beauty of the sound may strike every person on Earth anytime ‒ while watching concerts on YouTube or having a walk in a shopping mall while listening to the radio in your car. We bet you have experienced something similar at least once.
Still, some people feel the sound so heavily that they describe these cases as ‘skin orgasms’. Let’s dive deeper into the details of this musical phenomenon…
Science Behind the Music Phenomenon
The human body commonly responds with strong feelings only to vital experiences ‒ those that endanger or ensure survival. For example, food, sex, dangerous situations, and so on. However, music is not a ‘life-or-death’ thing, how is it possible that people feel it so strongly? Psyche Loui has been researching this issue for a long time. She started as a musician, then working at Wesleyan University as a psychologist, and years passed until she began to explore the music phenomenon with Luke Harrison, her student.
The scientists report that normally people can experience shivers, still, some of them go far beyond this common reaction. In 1991, a study of both musicians and those who had nothing to do with music was conducted. This study showed that people feel flushing, trembling and even sweating or sexual arousal when they were listening to their favorite music. This is what can be called a ‘skin orgasm’, which is recognized by many cultures across the world. For instance, Pakistani and North Indian Sufis have been talking about the erotic dimension of music for a long time already, which proves that sensations music can cause are really strong.
Nevertheless, Loui and her student prefer calling that ‘frisson’ so that people are not confused with specific terms reminding them of normal sexual experiences.
The Cause for the Musical Phenomenon
What else is interesting, people can catch the musical elements that come before all those extra strong feelings they experience. After collecting various reports from the respondents, scientists pinpointed these elements causing frisson:
- sudden changes in the harmony of the melody;
- dynamic leaps from loud to soft and on the contrary;
- appoggiaturas ‒ dissonant notes (a great example of such a thing is ‘Someone you like’ by Adele).
One more thing… You might be wondering how did they track those skin orgasms ‒ using only the words of subjects surveyed? Actually, the approach was more scientific. Loui used an fMRI scanner commonly used by neurologists to map the brain regions responding to stimulus. So, this device helped them chart the mechanisms of sensations music phenomenon causes.
The anticipation of Positive Experience
The human brain constantly monitors expectations. Even before being born, people start learning sounds and the way music is composed. If the sound follows such conventions, it catches our attention. And on the contrary, if the melody is too unlike from the patterns our brain knows, it will sound like unfamiliar noise. So, we can conclude that the main difference between beautiful music and cacophony is the familiarity with the set of sounds.
See the logic? If the sound is familiar to you, your brain thinks: “Yeah, man, it was exactly what I was expecting!”, and hitting this sweet spot pleases your brain, so you feel a frisson. And the sensations music provokes become stronger every time your brain ‘guesses’ what will be next.
This response is somehow similar to what people experience when having sex, taking drugs. That’s why some songs can be really addictive for humans. And you know what musical phenomenon stands behind you listen to your favorite track for 20 hours in a row. 😉
Music Phenomenon ‒ Even More Science
The processes of anticipation, resolution or violation trigger the release of dopamine in the brain. This happens in two regions ‒ the nucleus accumbens and the caudate ‒ almost simultaneously with the frisson one experiences.
Once you learn about a new song that becomes your favorite, those feelings can even strengthen. Although your brain won’t experience any WOW-effect or the sense of surprise, you may experience the frisson anyway ‒ like hungry Pavlov’s dogs who heard the bell rang.
Here also comes empathy, when we try to understand the feelings and thoughts of a composer or singer, try to feel what they felt while writing the music… As a result, we get a juicy emotional cocktail or emotions, feelings, experiences, imaginary worlds, and so on. This empowers people to feel like they are not on Earth anymore.
Still, as everyone has different musical experiences, songs will affect people differently.
The Role of Music in Evolution
Another fascinating music phenomenon is that it evolves together with mankind. Loui believes that music is a kind of ‘transformative’ tool that helps build the society and every separate mind. She draws an example of a sandbox. We don’t use music for survival, as our basic needs are fulfilled. So, we can use it for training, developing and expanding experiences. Beautiful sound helps people grow emotionally and bond with other humans in this world. This is some kind of ‘emotional communication’ between human beings across the planet.
So, we can also conclude that sensations music provokes ‒ the frisson ‒ can be a reward for developing one’s mind.
All in all, the fact that the musical phenomenon people sometimes call ‘skin orgasm’ exists tells us about its social importance. Otherwise, people would not feel pleased and happy. Remember the last time you were dancing while listening to your favorite track ‒ isn’t that real happiness? And you didn’t even have to understand why this happens, why do you experience those emotions, why goosebumps appear on your skin… You are just in high spirits, and that’s wonderful.
To sum everything up, and to check that music phenomenon, try to find the song you like the most right away and listen to it… Does it work? 😉