The songs remain the same...in my head
For some of us the music plays on and on. We cannot help it. I'm talking about folks like myself and millions of others who deal with song stuck in their heads. Whether it was the first song you heard in a given day or the last, somehow the tune never stops playing. I first noticed this so-called "condition" late in the sixth grade when our class went on a week-long camping trip. Way, way back then in the late 1970s, we were already technology deprived by today's standards. Indeed there was nothing close to an Internet connection, mobile phones and the proverbial X-box gaming consoles on the market. Battery-powered handheld games were about as high-tech as we got around that time. So going into a camp with no access to television sets, radios and landline phones seriously cut our young lives off from civilization.
Of course looking back on my sixth grade camping trip, it was nice to decompress and get away from it all. About six years later, my friends and I voluntarily embarked on a camping trip to western Pennsylvania. But, this camping trip set up for twelve-year-olds was tough to ask. We were kids who were used to eating from TV trays while watching Happy Days. Okay, I'm guilty as charged stealing that line from singer/songwriter Jackson Browne, but that line which was written about four years after that camping trip was so true about our young lives at that time. We were so engrossed in our own pop culture world that going away from it for the first time was quite shocking.
So here we were at sixth grade camp, cut off from virtually everything at the time and there I was stuck with Blondie's "Heart of Glass" in my head. It could have been playing in my mom's 1975 silver Camaro while she was taking me to the camp or perhaps it was embedded in my head for weeks. Apparently that song was number one not terribly far before the trip started so that tune being stuck in my head would make sense. I confessed that "Heart of Glass" was stuck in my head. I have a feeling to this day that I "infected him" with the song by making that confession. The song vividly playing in my head honestly would not stop. Blondie was the soundtrack of that entire week. Now historically speaking, that wasn't so bad. C'mon, Blondie is a classic these days. Thank the Lord that I wasn't stuck with something like "Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer which was released more than one decade after my sixth grade camp experience. Wait, "Can't Touch This" was stuck in my head after hearing the Rick James-beat-infused track at my company's 10th anniversary party. It was playing rather loudly to me while riding the commuter train back home that evening. Still, in spring 1979, Blondie dominated my head.
Here we are in 2015 and finally, someone came out with a study that explains why songs can get stuck in one's head. The study asked participants with their experiences known as "earworm." While "earworm" sounds creepy to me, there is a scientific explanation which I will try to relate here in more layman's terms. It was found that there are thicknesses in certain parts of the brain which affect INMI - which stands for Involuntary Musical Imagery. INMI contains "auditory perception" and "pitch memory." Auditory perception is located in an area known as Heschel's Gyrus and pitch memory is in an area known as the right inferior frontal gyrus. I said that I would try to keep this explanation simple, but here I go with terms like "Heschel's Gyrus." The amount of brain tissue in those regions supposedly make "earworm" better or worse.
The findings state that "earworm" happens with folks who hear a lot of music. Okay, that would be a "no-brainer" (could not resist), but that would obviously be a small component to having "earworm." The study goes on to say that "earworm sufferers" have personality traits including obsessive-compulsiveness or neurotic tendencies. All right, now I'm hurt. I'm far from obsessive-compulsive and neurotic, just let me check my alphabetized CD collection here and I'll be fine. Seriously, I had no idea that "earworm" is such a problem. I have been doing just fine since the "Blondie Days."
So, if "earworm" is a condition, how can it be treated? The study authors suggest chewing gum to deal with the condition. Supposedly the action of chewing a stick of gum interrupts voluntary memory recollection or stops songs like "Heart of Glass" from spinning in your head.