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Study: The right song sends your brain into pleasure overload

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Nov. 3 (UPI) — If you get goose bumps and chill travels down your spine when the the guitar solo hits during your favorite song, you’re not alone. Around half of people get chills when listening to music.

In a new study, published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, researchers successfully observed the neurological phenomenon known as “musical chills” using electroencephalography, or EEG.

Scientists in France recruited participants that experience musical chills and hooked them up to electrodes as they listened to their favorite songs.

The participants were able to accurately predict the musical moments that would induce chills, but the listeners also experienced chills during unexpected moments.

“The majority of extracts that produce chills are specific to people, very personal, linked to the memory, to the musical styles people usually listened to,” lead study author Thibault Chabin told UPI in an email.

“Chills are associated with some musical characteristics such as new and unprepared harmonies, sudden dynamic or textural changes, harmonic or melodic sequences, rhythm, resolutions etc. It depends on the musical experiences of the listener, and on how he is able to anticipate what happened next,” said Chabin, researcher at the University Bourgogne Franche-Comté in France.

During the moments when listeners reported experiencing musical chills, the scalp-attached electrodes revealed a burst of electrical activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, a portion of the brain involved in emotional processing.

EEG recordings also revealed heightened activity in the supplementary motor area, a mid-brain region responsible for movement control, and the right temporal lobe, part of the right side of the brain tasked with auditory processing and musical appreciation.

The three regions of the brain work in conjunction to process musical experience, coordinate a pleasure response and release dopamine, a “feel-good” hormone and neurotransmitter.

Scientists have previously used other brain-imaging technologies to study musical chills, but the latest research was the first to deploy EEG for the purpose of observing the neurological origins of musical chills.

“EEG can be exported outside of the laboratory in naturalistic scenarios,” Chabin said. “New hyperscanning methods for the measure of inter-individual cerebral coupling is a promising method to study objectively social interaction and social emotional interaction including shared musical experiences and shared musical emotions. This work was a first step before other investigations in natural conditions.”

Chabin hopes the study of musical chills in more naturalistic settings can provide new insights into the evolutionary origins of music-derived pleasure experiences.

“What is intriguing with music is, it seems to confer no biological value and has no value on the survival plan,” Chabin said. “But, the implication of the reward system and of the dopaminergic system in processing of musical pleasure … suggest an ancestral function for music.”

Chabin and his colleagues are also preparing to publish new data from an experiment during a concert. Researchers measured the shared musical emotions of about 15 people.

“They reported their subjective emotions on a smartphone in real time while their cerebral activity has been recorded by classic EEG and some physiological parameters such as heart rate [and] the [electrodermal] activity of the skin that are good indicators of the strength of emotion have been catch,” Chabin said.

“The aim was to measure how people experienced similar emotions, how they shared a musical emotional experience and to measure how their cerebral and physiological activities were coupled during specific moments or not,” he said.



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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx touches down on asteroid Bennu to nab sample

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Oct. 20 (UPI) — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx touched down on asteroid Bennu on Tuesday evening in a mission to scoop a sample of rocks and dirt.

The spacecraft — the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer — made soft contact with the asteroid at 6:12 p.m. EDT.

The historic “touch and go” event featured animation displaying OSIRIS-REx’s sample collection activities in real time. It takes time for real images of the touchdown to travel back to the Earth, so they won’t be released to the public until Wednesday.

The craft executed a series of maneuvers over the course of several hours before making soft contact with the surface of the asteroid to collect regolith, or rocks and dirt.

“It will be four and a half hours of anxiousness,” Beth Buck, OSIRIS-REx mission operations manager at Lockheed Martin Space, said in a news conference ahead of the event.

Buck made a comparison to the descent of a spacecraft on Mars, when there is typically “seven minutes of terror.”

The goal is to learn more about the solar system’s history and help “planetary defense” engineers with missions to protect earth from rogue asteroids. Bennu is believed to be a window into the solar system’s past since it’s a pristine, carbon-rich body carrying building blocks of both planets and life.

At around 1:50 p.m. EDT, the spacecraft left orbit around the asteroid before executing a series of burns to position itself over a sampling area nicknamed Nightingale.

Once in position, the craft began its approach to the asteroid at 5:50 p.m. EDT. It then spent about 15 seconds attempting to collect the regolith sample before backing away again.

The area, which is 52 feet in diameter, will make for a more demanding landing than expected, Kenneth Getzandanner, OSIRIS-REx flight dynamics manager at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in the news conference.

The original mission called for a landing “zone” about 150% larger than Nightingale, at 82 feet, but that changed because Bennu was more rocky than expected.

The goal was to collect at least 1.7 ounces of fine-grained material, but the spacecraft can carry up to 4.4 pounds, Heather Enos, OSIRIS-REx deputy principal investigator at the University of Arizona said.

“I would love for that capsule to be completely full,” Enos said.

Though early images from the asteroid should hint at whether the mission succeeded, it will take engineers roughly 10 days to compare and analyze the mass before and after the maneuver to actually know how much dirt is inside the OSIRIS-REx.

If it failed, the spacecraft has enough fuel to attempt two more touch downs to collect material.

The spacecraft is expected to return to Earth, with the regolith sample from Bennu, in 2023.



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SpaceX scrubs Starlink launch until Thursday, if weather cooperates

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Oct. 21 (UPI) — Just three days after sending 60 more Starlink satellites into orbit, SpaceX is aiming to launch another batch of broadband satellites into space from Florida.

If the weather cooperates, Thursday’s launch will be SpaceX’s 15th Starlink mission.

Liftoff had been scheduled for 12:29 p.m. EDT Wednesday aboard a Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but controllers scrubbed the launch due to weather and rescheduled for 12:14 p.m. on Thursday.

With a launch Sunday, SpaceX increased the size of their Starlink constellation to nearly 800 satellites. The 15th mission will see another 60-odd satellites join the network.

“The goal of Starlink is to create a network that will help provide Internet services to those who are not yet connected, and to provide reliable and affordable Internet across the globe,” according to the Kennedy Space Center.

Weather for Wednesday’s planned launch had looked so-so and the Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron predicted a 60 percent chance of favorable conditions.

“A mid-level inverted trough and associated easterly wave currently across the Bahamas will meander into the state over the next few days, bringing enhanced moisture, cloud cover, and instability with a higher coverage of showers and storms,” Space Force forecasters wrote.

They said Thursday’s forecast looks quite similar to Wednesday’s.

Earlier this month, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted that Starlink’s constellation was big enough to begin beta-testing the Internet service system in both the United States and southern Canada.

SpaceX has already offered Starlink Internet services to emergency responders in wildfire-stricken areas of Washington State.

Washington’s Hoh tribe is also using the Internet service to provide their members online education and telehealth services.



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Chernobyl-level radiation harms bumblebee reproduction

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Oct. 21 (UPI) — Bees are more sensitive to radiation than scientists thought. Scientists found the reproduction rates of bumblebees declined significantly when exposed to Chernobyl-level radiation.

The research, published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, suggests radiation in Ukraine’s Chernobyl Exclusion Zone could impair pollination services, triggering wider ecological consequences than previously estimated.

Humans are not allowed to live in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the disaster area more directly impacted by the 1986 nuclear accident, the worst in history. However, the destroyed nuclear reactors are surrounded by forests that are populated by robust populations of birds, bears, bison, lynx, moose, wolves and more.

Efforts to gauge the effects of radiation contamination on insects have yielded mixed results in the past. While some studies have suggested insects are relatively radiation-resistant, others have demonstrated significant impairment.

When researchers exposed bumblebees in the lab to radiation dose of 100 µGyh-1, an amount approximating exposure inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, reproduction rates among the bees dropped between 30 and 45 percent.

Researchers found a direct correlation between the size of the radiation dose and reproduction rate declines. Lower levels of radiation had a smaller effect, while larger doses yielded greater declines.

Scientists were surprised to find they were able to detect reproductive rate declines at very small levels of radiation exposure.

“Our research provides much needed understanding as to the effects of radiation in highly contaminated areas and this is the first research to underpin the international recommendation for the effects of radiation on bees,” lead study author Katherine Raines, environmental scientist at the University of Stirling in Scotland, said in a news release.



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