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Ear Worms And The Musical Link To New Brain Pathways
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Ear Worms And the Musical Link to New Brain Pathways

Music is more than just a noise in the background. The saying goes that music calms the savage beast, only one of many such sayings related to the remarkable benefits that we get from music. Nearly every major event in our lives as humans are accompanied by a sound track. We sing Happy Birthday to celebate another year of life. We walk down the aisle to wed to a song of our choosing. There is even music played when we meet our demise and are laid out in our casket. Music is there through our entire lives. But, acccording to psychologists music may permeate our brains more than we thought possible and may also be a way to help those who are injured to recover lost skills.

It has been nearly a year since Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords took a bullet to the brain. Left in critical condition, she amazed everyone by making an astonishing recovery, even participating in the debt ceiling vote to the standing ovation of everyone in Congress. But, because of damage to her brain's left hemisphere, Giffords was left with aphasia, a difficulty in speaking. The words are there, but she just cannot get them out. She is working with therapists who are using musical therapy to help her regain her speech. According to scientists, music allows the brain to form new pathways around the damaged area, a phenomena they call neuroplasticity. But, music, can do more than just help people who are learning how to talk. Music therapy is used with socialization and behavioral conditions and may also be used to help with pain control during treatments such as chemotherapy or dental treatments.

Music can also stick in our minds when we least want it there. Technically called involuntary musical imagery, the so called "ear worms" stick in our brains for several reasons. According to a study that was published in the British Psychology of Music, there are four easily defined reasons that we get ear worms. Obviously, music you have just heard is likely to get stuck in your head. After all, haven't we all ended up singing the last song we heard when we turn off the radio? Our memories also trigger the ear worms, bringing up songs linked to a specific thought or memory. Emotions can play a role in causing them as well, as certain moods make us automatically think of certain songs. Finally, what we are doing when we hear the songs may also influence if we will end up with an ear worm or not. The less focus we have at the time, the more likely we will be cursed with a song for at least a little while.


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