A Canadian research group has found the pleasure centers in the brain that respond to drug craving are also active when we listen to emotionally powerful music that gives us “chills” or “shivers-down-the-spine.”

Using two separate brain imaging tests the researchers examined subjects as they listened alternately to music that gave them chills and music that did not.

Using a PET scan, the researchers showed that music that caused chills led to a release of dopamine in the reward centers of the brain (mesolimbic striatum).

Using fMRI on the same subjects, they found that activation in these regions happens both during the experience of chills and while subjects are anticipating them.

Music, a mere sequence of notes arranged in time, can activate the same reward centers in the brain as drugs such as cocaine.

Source: Organization for Human Brain Mapping