Earworms, tune wedgies and bubble gum

Image swiped from Takei
Image swiped from Takei

It’s happened to all of us, the song that gets stuck in your head for what seems like an eternity. But what can be done about it?

I got such an earworm earlier this week and it drove me insane for a few days. Hazard of the job I suppose.

Now, scientists from the University of Reading in the UK report they have found a simple answer – chewing gum.

Say what?

Sounds simple, I know. Let me break it down for you.

According to the researchers, “The part of our brain that processes auditory information – the auditory cortex – is triggered when we listen to a song so, when we hear a familiar tune again, our mind fills in the rest, repeatedly. This would suggest tune wedgies may be a form of involuntary musical memory.

“The act of gum-chewing is very similar to irrelevant sub-vocalization, which has proved to degrade short term memory performance as well as auditory images.”

Therefore, chewing gum actually interferes with the earworm experience.

And here’s something I didn’t know, “The earworm phenomenon stretches back at least to the 19th century – Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain both referenced the experience in well-known works,” said Reading’s Dr. Phil Beaman.

Previous research has also shown that virtually any song can become an earworm. Seriously, I know this for a fact. Commercial jingles are the worst for me.

I guess I should buy stock in Bubblicious.


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