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Explaining the science behind scary music

Saturday - 6/23/2012, 11:25am  ET

jaws300.jpg
The music in ''Jaws'' gets our hearts racing due to the fast changes in frequency and noise. (IMDB.com)

WASHINGTON - Science is coming up with an answer to what makes scary music scary.

"Jaws" gets our hearts racing using fast changes in frequency and noise, what researchers call non-linear sounds.

Researchers say listening to music with lots of ups and downs -- abrupt frequency jumps or noise added -- gets people on their toes because it may be tied to our primal response to screams of others. Voices get similarly overblown in stressful and dangerous situations.

The new research in Biology Letters actually finds that the same music that makes us feel scared has less of an impact if it's paired with video of someone doing normal things like drinking coffee or reading a book.

WTOP's Max Smith contributed to this report. Follow Max and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)