Why do songs get stuck in our heads? (- Ask Smithsonian / Smithsonian.com)
Why do songs get stuck in our heads?
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Ah, yes, the evil ear worm, which sometimes has our hearing seemingly to stick on the same song, over and over. Polls show that a stunning 90% of us have experienced these hearing parasites and nine out of 10 report having them at least weekly.

Who remembers these classic offenders? "Who Let the Dogs Out?" or "The Macarena," and my personal favorite, "Call Me Maybe." So what does science tell us about this musical torture? Not a whole lot yet but we're working on it.

Some say ear worms keep our brains occupied when they have nothing better to do, while others believe that they cause a part of our brain called the auditory cortex to itch, meaning we have to scratch it.

The oh, so helpful cures include singing the whole song to its end or occupying your poor brain some other way, such as solving puzzles.

Critical thinking challenge: How can your brain have an itch?

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COMMENTS (64)
  • KiraL-1
    9/17/2014 - 10:32 p.m.

    This article pretty much sums up an average person's life, explaining why songs get stuck in our heads. It teaches the reader about the hearing parasite: the ear worm. There's been some speculation on whether or not the ear worm tries to keep our brains from being bored or the ear worm causes the auditory cortex to itch. Unfortunately, these are just some speculations on why songs get stuck in out heads. The real answer is still being researched. I found this article interesting because I had never really thought about why we get songs stuck in our heads. When we get more and more research in and have more answers about ear worms, I'll definitely be very interested in this topic.

  • SadieB-1
    9/17/2014 - 10:55 p.m.

    When you listen to a song during the day, you might find yourself singing a part of it over and over again in your head without being able to stop. This is called an ear worm and they happen at last every week or so. Some think ear worms are a result of your brain being bored or that they cause our auditory cortex to "itch". One way to cure the ear worm is to entertain your brain in a different way such as a puzzle, or maybe reading. I found this topic intriguing because I get ear worms a lot, I find them highly annoying, and I had no idea why I was getting them. Also, this is an example of how little we know about or brains and the phenomenons that they cause, such as deja vu.

  • BlaineT-Bri
    9/18/2014 - 12:33 a.m.

    My Brain gets itches from so many things. Certain songs however, can really cause my brain to have a major itch. There are songs such as "Baby" by Justin Bieber, or "let it go" from that really really bad movie Frozen. Brain itches may cause certain things to happen. One of them is to blast classical Beethoven in my ears until its gone, or simply just go out on an all out all-day headphone wearing all day blasting music.

    • DavidXu-Bri
      9/24/2014 - 03:03 p.m.

      Then reason music gets stuck in your head is because of something called "anticipation". Your brain practices predicting things constantly, from the time you're born to the time you die. That's why humans are so good at extracting patterns from data, even when no true patterns exist. Certain music tunes, then, are "catchy" because they contain short, repetitive patterns that the brain just can't help picking up. Afterward, the simplicity and brevity of the pattern ensures that it doesn't fade from your brain easily, causing the "stuck in your head" effect. While it may feel (and sound) annoying, it's just another way your brain practices and gets better at anticipation and prediction.

  • NW2000Basketball
    9/18/2014 - 08:38 a.m.

    Maybe sometimes we have to itch our brain when a part of our brain stops functioning. So once we itch we can get focused and that part of our body can start working again.

  • r2000soccer
    9/18/2014 - 08:40 a.m.

    when we hear one song again and again our mind copy this song and when we have nothing to do our mind repeat song and the partof our brain called the auditory cortex to itch, meaning we have to scratch it

  • TF00Music
    9/18/2014 - 12:59 p.m.

    Our brains can have an 'itch' by having the song stuck inside your head. and them saying that we have to scratch it means that we just have to get it out, one way or another. or just by solving puzzles of some sort.

  • DD2000BASEBALL
    9/18/2014 - 01:01 p.m.

    I think your brain having an itch is a metaphor for your brain needing or wanting something (in this case music). I like to listen to music a lot so I guess my brain itches a lot.

  • ws2001wrex
    9/18/2014 - 01:04 p.m.

    Your brain can have an itch because its so bored that it can bring up things you remember loving. At least that's what I think in this matter. But an Ear worm I still have is Gundam Style, still trying to get that out my head.

  • IM2000food
    9/18/2014 - 01:06 p.m.

    you brain can have a itch when you have nothing better to do or nothing at all another reason why your brain itches because its empty.

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