Interesting Tidbits About Musical Earworms–Or Those Annoying Songs Stuck In Your Head

We’ve all had those days when the catchy, but irritating, lines to that pop song we don’t really like, have been stuck in our heads all day long. This phenomenon of song-stuck-in-your-head-ness is called having musical earworms, or a brain itch. When you hear the opening notes to a familiar song, the auditory cortex is triggered, and your brain wants to fill in the rest–and so you “sing” it in your head, even after the song has completed.

But why is it that the brain loops sections of that annoying song over and over? Researchers at Dartmouth University have found that

The only way to “scratch” brain itch is to repeat the song over and over in your mind. Unfortunately, like with mosquito bites, the more you scratch the more you itch, and so on until you’re stuck in an unending song cycle.

Some tips that researchers at the University of Cincinnati provided for squashing earworms include:
1. Singing another song, playing another melody or instrument
2. Listen to the song, the whole way through
3. Listening to complex music (ie. Mozart), or songs that are of a completely different genre
4. Picturing yourself squashing the creepy, crawly, irritating earworm, banishing it from your head

And finally, on the list of 10 most annoying earworm songs, students reported the following, memorable tunes as driving them the most crazy:

  • “Oops… I Did It Again”
  • “It’s a small world after all”
  • “YMCA!”
  • “We Will Rock You”
  • “Who Let the Dogs Out?”
  • The “Mission Impossible” theme

… and now watch as one of those stays in your head for the next couple of hours. ^^ Enjoy.


~ by Nocturnal Discourse on 23 July 2009.

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