It’s happened to everyone…you’re minding your own business, flipping through radio stations, when you come across one of “those” songs – it only takes is a couple of notes and — BLAM! — the song is stuck in your head for hours, maybe even days! These tunes that persistently repeat in your head are affectionately known as “earworms” and there is scientific reason behind their attack on the listener minds. Simply the scientific phenomenon is explained as a “brain itch,” and the only way to soothe the itch is through song repetition.
When you listen to music your auditory cortex is triggered. This is the region of the brain where sounds are processed. A recent study conducted at Dartmouth University discovered that when a familiar part of a song is played, the auditory cortex is activated and automatically fills in the unheard portion of the song – “earworms.” As our brain works out the itch, the song is repeated over and over. This phenomenon is not completely understood yet by research, but it has been found that the cognitive itch occurs as a result of the brain’s affinity for pattern recognition. Another fact that has been found is that women are more frequent sufferers of “earworms” than men. Additionally, musicians and people with neurotic tendencies also proved to be more susceptible to the sticky songs.
So what do researchers recommend to cure the “itch” – nothing at this time, but they do joke that you may be able to replace one song with another.