MadSci Network: Neuroscience

Re: What causes goosebumps in response to say, beautiful music?

Date: Thu Jan 28 10:53:00 1999
Posted By: David Pendergrass, Faculty, Basic Medical Science, University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Medicine
Area of science: Neuroscience
ID: 916831380.Ns


  You have already answered your own question!  As you already know, fear 
and temperature both have strong effects on piloerection (goosebumps) 
through autonomic nervous systems feedback systems.  These are mediated 
like other emotion-linked autonomic reflexes by routing through the limbic 
system.  These other emotion-linked autonomic reflexes include blushing, 
blanching, butterflies in the stomach.  

  The limbic system is the site of primitive drives: sex, fear, rage, 
aggression and hunger.  Anatomical sites for the limbic system include 
amygdala, parahippocampal gyrus, uncus, subcallosal gyrus, cingulate gyrus, 
fornix, dentate gyrus, hypothalamus and hippocampus.  These are found 
around a major structure called the thalamus which receives virtually 
all sensory input.  The medial forebrain bundle is a bidirectional 
communication with the brainstem which then directly mediates autonomic 
reflexes.  A second method of invoking the autonomic reflexes is through 
the hypothalamus which also sends nerve projections to the brainstem.  

  Specifically, direct stimulation of the amygdala and hypothalamus evokes 
the piloerection pathway.  It's in these physical structures that emotional 
stimulation by music or the reading of poetry, etc. can result in 

  BTW, the hippocampus is also involved in learning and memory, suggesting 
the importance of emotions on learning and the reason why background music 
can help with learning.

  Hope that helps answer your questions!

Dr. Dave

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