Two Seniors to Present Research at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society Conference (CNS)

What causes us to get goosebumps when listening to beautiful music? This was the question that guided seniors Sahil S. and Jackson G. through their research project titled, "Exploring musical chills in adolescents using the Computer-Human Interface for the Live Labeling of Emotional Responses (CHILLER).” After extensive experimentation, both students will be presenting their findings to leading scientists at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) Annual Conference in San Francisco in April.
Held annually, the CNS Annual Conference “[brings] together the most accomplished cognitive neuroscientists in the field,” began High School Science Teacher Dana Bevilacqua. “This means that Sahil and Jackson will be published scientific researchers for their work in collaboration with NYU researchers – a highly accomplished feat to be entering into their next professional endeavors with!”

For their project, Sahil and Jackson built their own CHILLER (​​Computer-Human Interface for the Live Labeling of Emotional Responses), a device which can measure emotional chills in real time, something which they did in consultation with NYU researchers. “Working with the [Center for Language, Music and Emotion (CLaME)] Lab at NYU has been absolutely mind-blowing,” started Sahil when speaking of his experience. “To have access to so many resources and people, some in different countries, while still in high school is something I am incredibly grateful for.” Of his experience, Jackson echoed these sentiments, adding that “Working with the technical side of the CHILLER technology allowed me to apply my computer science skills to the field of neuroscience, something I never thought I would be able to achieve.”

When asked about how they felt about their upcoming presentation, both of the young scientists naturally expressed a bit of nervousness. However, support from Ms. Bevilacqua has been “extremely helpful,” noted Sahil. What’s more, excitement has seemed to outweigh any trepidation either of them have had. “We are so excited to present our findings later this month!” Jackson began. “Naturally we are a bit nervous but because of our interesting research and the advanced knowledge of the topics we are presenting on, the conference should be nothing but a chance to share our findings.” And besides, said Sahil, “scientific research is all about overcoming obstacles,” meaning that this presentation is just the first step towards further research the two may do in the future.

You can read the abstract of Sahil and Jackson’s experiment below:

"Exploring musical chills in adolescents using the Computer-Human Interface for the Live Labeling of Emotional Responses (CHILLER)" 
One known physiological indicator of emotion during music-listening is the goosebumps that accompany chills. However, what precisely elicits music-induced goosebumps is still unclear as competing accounts may attribute this to the musical structure itself or the individual’s affective experience with the music. We replicated methods from Bannister & Eerola (2021), using an objective measure to investigate two types of musical chills– vigilance and social chills – on a population of high school students. While vigilance chills are modulated by expectancy and features tied to musical structure, social chills, linked to empathy and social bonding, refer to the “story” of the musical piece. While Bannister & Eerola measured chills via subjective self-reports, here we used the Computer-Human Interface for the Live Labeling of Emotional Responses (CHILLER) to detect goosebumps from a video recording of skin. CHILLERs are wearable sensors built from Raspberry-Pi architecture and open-sourced algorithms to track piloerection –or goosebumps– of the skin in real time. Our aims were to a) explore two types of musical chills in adolescents, b) investigate whether musical sophistication impacts the experience of chills in adolescents, and c) test the CHILLER’s sensitivity to detect piloerection. We show that adolescents’ chill responses to the social and vigilance music conditions are similar to adults and that the physiological responses for both chill types are more prevalent in adolescents with higher musical sophistication. Together, our findings support the CHILLER as an objective, real time and portable method for measuring chills with implications for versatile applications across diverse musical contexts and participants.