I’ve just found this wonderful short paper on emotional peaks and ‘chills down the spine’ in response to music. I didn’t realise the area had been investigated and apparently there is a small literature on these most sublime of experiences.
The paper is brief, accessible and is available online as a pdf but the abstract gives a great summary:
Chills as an indicator of individual emotional peaks
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Jul;1169:351-4.
Grewe O, Kopiez R, Altenm√ºller E.
Chills (goose bumps) have been repeatedly associated with positive emotional peaks. Chills seem to be related to distinct musical structures and the reward system in the brain. A new approach that uses chills as indicators of individual emotional peaks is discussed. Chill reactions of 95 participants in response to seven music pieces were recorded. Subjective intensity as well as physiological arousal (skin conductance response, heart rate) revealed peaks during chill episodes. This review suggests that chills are a reliable indicator of individual emotional peaks, combining reports of subjective feelings with physiological arousal.
Right, where’s that Miley Cyrus CD.