Have you ever been watching a sporting event, such as the Super Bowl, when suddenly the Star Spangled Banner starts playing? You realize you were fine just a few seconds ago, but now you’re getting goose bumps! Why is this happening?
Goose bumps are small bumps that appear on your skin for many different reasons. Some people also refer to goose bumps as the “shivers” or the “chills.” You get goose bumps more often than you would think. That’s why researchers are looking into the mystery behind goose bumps.
Goose bumps start in the part of the body called the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system sends signals from your brain to your skin. Goose bumps usually happen when you get cold or feel certain powerful emotions, such as fear.
When you feel certain powerful emotions, a part of your brain called the hypothalamus sends a message via your nerves to the muscles in your skin to tighten up. When the skin on your body gets tight, your hairs stand on end and goose bumps form.
Goose bumps helped your ancestors to survive. Long ago, prehistoric human beings had much more hair than we do now. Thick hair was all over their bodies! If you were cold, your nervous system would send a signal to your skin, saying “I am cold, warm me up!”
Goose bumps would make your hair stand on end, trapping more heat close to your body. It would warm you up, helping you to survive the cold. That’s not the only way that goose bumps would help your ancestors, though.
If ancient human beings were scared or attacked by a predator, they would also get goose bumps. The goose bumps would puff up the hair all over their bodies. They would look larger and scarier, so they could frighten predators away!
Now that you’ve learned how goose bumps could help ancient humans to survive, you’re probably still WONDERing exactly how goose bumps are related to music. As you may have experienced before, goose bumps can occur when you hear a love song, a classic song, or a passionate version of the Star Spangled Banner.
Dr. Jaak Panksepp, a Bowling Green State University neurobiologist, has a theory about why people get goose bumps from music. People can feel intense emotions, like sadness and passion, when they listen to music. Dr. Panksepp believes that, when people feel strong emotions, their brains release the same chemicals that tell the skin to form goose bumps.
Although goose bumps used to help us survive, we usually take them for granted today. The next time you get the “chills,” though, pay attention! They could be sending you a message, such as “danger is near” or “put on a coat because it’s cold!”
If you get the “shivers” when your favorite song comes on, it probably just means that you’re experiencing strong emotions related to the song. Goose bumps may be a bit annoying, but they’re really meant to help us! So, the next time you’re listening to your favorite song, just kick back and let the goose bumps do their job!