Monday, 16 January 2012


I first read about earworms in Musicophilia, a fantastic book by Oliver Sacks about music and the brain.  (If you are interested in either subject you should check it out, it's a great blend of interesting fact and case histories and anecdotes that those who prefer more narrative reading can enjoy).

Earworms are those tunes, or fragments of tunes that get stuck in your brain on repeat.  Sometimes they are a joy, other times they are a curse. Advertisers are particularly adept at finding jingles that will stick in your brain.

I have an almost constant run of music in my head.  Today I woke up with The Lark Ascending, thanks to a BBC 4 documentary I saw as I went to bed last night.

That was chased out by Bridge Over Troubled Water which was played at a very moving humanist funeral I attended today.  It is a beautiful song to find in your mind on repeat.  It will probably be gone by the time I wake tomorrow.

Luckily, for the most part my earworms are pretty benign.  They don't seem to chase my thoughts out of the way, or irritate me.  Some last for hours on and off (I'm going on 10 hours with Bridge Over Troubled Water)  But when I've had enough I break out my secret weapon...

Yes.  That's the Bangles.  Don't Laugh.  I don't know how I discovered this, but I did.  If I have a stubborn ear worm, and need a reset I break out a Bangles tune.  Walk Like an Egyptian (dance moves not necessary, but can be fun) is my first choice, though particularly determined worms get a treatment with Eternal Flame.  (Take that Peppa Pig!)  Why does it work?  I don't know.  I suspect most people can find their own personal reset tune - something catchy enough to call to mind, but which, for whatever reason does not stick and become a replacement earworm.  The Bangles work for me.

If you find earworms interesting there is a questionnaire you can answer here: to help in research about them.

Do you get regular earworms?  Do you have a cure?

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