Science.  The ear, a phenomenon that can drive you crazy

Science. The ear, a phenomenon that can drive you crazy

Science.  The ear, a phenomenon that can drive you crazy

We have all (or almost) experienced the phenomenon: a melody that goes through our heads, that we repeat over and over again and from which we find it hard to get rid. This is called an earworm. How and why does it occur? Explanations with a researcher in cognitive neuroscience.

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Sometimes it takes just a little while to feel that a broken record has taken over your brain. A word, an emotion, a memory, a song that you just listened to in transport or listened to while shopping. And here’s a little melody that goes round and round in your head. It will last quite a while. Even a whole day!

This phenomenon has a name: the worm. It is very common and intrigues scientists. Nicolas Farrugia is a specialist on the subject. The cognitive neuroscience researcher at IMT Atlantique in Brest quickly became interested in the effects of music on the brain. He himself is a musician, from a family of musicians and always has music in his head.

When we start the discussion on the subject, we run a little test. “What if I tell you ‘public bench’?” ask me. Inevitably, since then, I haven’t stopped mentally humming the chorus of the Brassens song! “The association of ideas is one of the triggers of the worm, explains the researcher from Brest. Listening to a song recently is another. Not everyone is equally sensitive to it. Studies are starting to show that the worm is related to personality traits. For example, if we practice music, if we listen to a lot of music, we will have more mumps “.

Fast tempo, simple construction pieces, breaks in the melody are all elements that make this or that song easier to remember and hijack the brain. “In the most quoted songs, says Nicolas Farrugia, obviously we find hits, TV commercials and sometimes songs that don’t even exist “. Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” is on the list, as is Village People’s “YMCA”, Pharell Williams’s “Happy”, not to mention the “Released, Released” that has haunted many.

That the brain chooses to turn some musical notes into a haunting, uncontrollable and repetitive worm is one thing. Getting rid of it is another. Yes, plug your ears is useless. More seriously, the cognitive neuroscience researcher provides some clues. “Singing the song all the way can help, even replacing it with another song. There is a more surprising trick that works: drinking a drink through a straw because it engages the articulatory function of the mouth muscles which is linked to the auditory system. “. Basically, it diverts the attention of the brain.

Talking also seems like a good solution. “Proof, smiles Nicolas Farrugia, while I’m talking to you I no longer have music in my head “. Chewing gum seems to give results too! If none of these alternatives get rid of a refrain that stubbornly ruins your day – especially if it’s not the kind of music you usually listen to – all you have to do is bear the pain patiently. Or pass the earthworm to your neighbor while you sing it out loud.

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