This Is Your Brain: The Guided Tour – Ear Worms

Sometimes, they just get stuck in your head. You don’t know how it got there – or how you’re ever going to get it to stop.

Crosss fade to “TIYB- TGT” signature tune

That’s right – this week’s edition of “This is Your Brain, The Guided Tour” takes a look at one of the most curious (and occasionally annoying) musical phenomenon;

Vamp music under

You know them – we’ve all had them. Those little fragments of music that keep playing over and over inside your head.

Guy humming twinkle twinkle

Despite the name, we are relieved to report that they are not actual worms. Nor do they actually reside inside your ears.

Music out

The experience music involves many different parts of the brain. Researchers at Dartmouth University have found that earworms seem to reside in the “Auditory Cortex” – which functions somewhat like your brain’s “i-Pod.” As a part of the study, they played familiar tunes to volunteers while scanning their brains in an MRI machine.

Recorded music – echo of guy humming along

As the volunteers listened to the music, their auditory cortex lit up. But – when the music suddenly cut out … the auditory cortex kept going…

Music stops – guy keeps humming

The tune played on in their heads – and an earworm had been hatched!

Humming fade out

The researchers likened this to “perception in reverse” – music coming from memories deep inside your head instead of sounds from outside your head.

So, … how do you stop an earworm from nagging you all day long? Some people swear by the use of “eraser tunes”.

Like swallowing the spider to catch the fly, one simply thinks of a “catchier” melody to drive out the annoying earworm.

Start humming “There was an old lady…”

Of course, there’s always a risk that the new tune will lodge in your brain as a “replacement earworm.”

Cross fade to signature tune

Until it’s time again for – “This is your Brain – The Guided Tour” — Keep on humming along!

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