Ask Alex: Why do songs get stuck in your head?

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By Alexander Castillo

Music is a powerful medium. So powerful that it has the ability to claw its way through your ear canal and burrow itself deep inside your brain. At this point, there’s no escaping its clutches.
The only way you can remove a song is by having another song fight its way inside you and wrestle the other song for control. So you have some power. You can choose whether you want to hum One Direction’s “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful,” or whistle “Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber.
At first, the song isn’t bad. You have just heard it for the first time, its catchiness making you tap your toes and bob your head.
Then hours later, you find your toes are still tapping and your head is still bobbing. Your friend next to you is punching your arm begging you to stop singing that song.
His acts of desperation are to no avail.  You arm is bruising because of Justin Drew Bieber. The Germans would say you have an “ohrwurm.” Good, old fashioned Americans would say you have an earworm.
Earworms are not actual parasites, but they are parasitic in the sense that once they get in your head, your brain begins to “itch.” No one likes an itchy brain because it is literally impossible to scratch.
Say you picked your nose so hard you actually did scratch your brain, you would probably forget algebra. But this is no physical itch. It’s an itch in the way that it’s something you need to relieve or else you will scream.
Your brain has a natural need to fill in the gaps of a song’s rhythm. Normal people won’t listen to arrhythmic music like death metal, because our brains, much like our hearts, don’t like arrhythmia.
Abnormal people however, love death metal and its lack of rhythm and abundance of noise.
When you listen to a song, the auditory cortex in your brain is triggered and if the song is stopped, the auditory cortex continues the song in your head, so that the rhythm is kept unbroken.
So it becomes apparent that metal heads are missing parts of their brains. This is clearly reflected in their choice of hairstyles and number of body modifications.
When it comes to good music though, our brains just won’t quit pumping out the jams, and it’ll play over and over in your head until something else occupies it or until those close to you beat it out of you.
So in the end, your brain is hard-wired to keep music running through it. Your incessant singing is no one’s fault but your own. But you can be free of this as long as you don’t stop believing. Don’t stop believing. Hold onto that feeling. Good luck getting that one out.