Music chills: The eye pupil as a mirror to music’s soul

This study evaluated whether music-induced aesthetic “chill ” responses, which typically correspond to peak emotional experiences, can be objectively monitored by degree of pupillary dilation. Participants listened to self-chosen songs versus control songs chosen by other participants. The experiment included an active condition where participants made key presses to indicate when experiencing chills and a passive condition (without key presses). Chills were reported more frequently for self-selected songs than control songs. Pupil diameter was concurrently measured by an eye-tracker while participants listened to each of the songs. Pupil size was larger within specific time-windows around the chill events, as monitored by key responses, than in comparison to pupil size observed during ‘passive’ song listening. In addition, there was a clear relationship between pupil diameter within the chills-related time-windows during both active and passive conditions, thus ruling out the possibility that chills-related pupil dilations were an artifact of making a manual response. These findings strongly suggest that music chills can be visible in the moment-to-moment changes in the size of pupillary responses and that a neuromodulatory role of the central norepinephrine system is thereby implicated in this phenomenon. © 2016 The Authors

This study evaluated whether music-induced aesthetic “chill ” responses, which typically correspond to peak emotional experiences, can be objectively monitored by degree of pupillary dilation. Participants listened to self-chosen songs versus control songs chosen by other participants. The experiment included an active condition where participants made key presses to indicate when experiencing chills and a passive condition (without key presses). Chills were reported more frequently for self-selected songs than control songs. Pupil diameter was concurrently measured by an eye-tracker while participants listened to each of the songs. Pupil size was larger within specific time-windows around the chill events, as monitored by key responses, than in comparison to pupil size observed during ‘passive’ song listening. In addition, there was a clear relationship between pupil diameter within the chills-related time-windows during both active and passive conditions, thus ruling out the possibility that chills-related pupil dilations were an artifact of making a manual response. These findings strongly suggest that music chills can be visible in the moment-to-moment changes in the size of pupillary responses and that a neuromodulatory role of the central norepinephrine system is thereby implicated in this phenomenon. © 2016 The Authors

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