Earworm: “As I was walking down the street one day, A man came up to me and asked me what the time was that was on my watch, yeah, And I said, Does anybody really know what time it is, I don’t, Does anybody really care, care, If so I can’t imagine why, about time, We’ve all got time enough to cry” (Chicago)
Some days are worse than others with earworms. Today I woke with this song from the 70s; showing my age? or perhaps just my husband’s penchant for classical rock? I know that it is the anxiety that I am experiencing and unable to get at in a deeper way. Therapy has been of no help lately.
I have been thinking about going to an OCD support group at the local mental health clinic to see what they have to say; this obsessive episode is lasting many times longer than usual.
I still feel ill, nauseated, losing weight. The depression seems better but the anxiety persists.
I sometimes have a cup of plain chicken soup in the afternoon when the nausea dissipates. I have also been drinking Powerade to prevent dehydration.
I thought about going to the hospital but I am not sure what they can do for me. I will see my endocrinologist in a week. Tomorrow I am going to try acupuncture for the anxiety and nausea. I am remaining as proactive as possible.
My husband is worried, and I worry about my husband working all day in the cold and then coming home, to me in bed, again. I am not as strong as he is, and I don’t think I could handle it as gracefully if it were the other way around.
Is there anyone out there having a particularly annoying earworm? Let me know. We can make a list.
Article: Scientists claim to have found a way to help anyone plagued by earworms – those annoying tunes that lodge themselves inside our heads and repeat on an endless loop.
Researchers claim the best way to stopping the phenomenon, sometimes known as earworms – where snippets of a catchy song inexplicably play like a broken record in your brain – is to solve some tricky anagrams.
This can force the intrusive music out of your working memory, they say, allowing it to be replaced with other more amenable thoughts.
But they also warn not to try anything too difficult as those irritating melodies may wiggle their way back into your consciousness.
For those unwilling to carry around a book of anagrams, a good novel may also do the trick.
“The key is to find something that will give the right level of challenge,” said Dr Ira Hyman, a music psychologist at Western Washington University who conducted the research. “If you are cognitively engaged, it limits the ability of intrusive songs to enter your head.
“Something we can do automatically like driving or walking means you are not using all of your cognitive resource, so there is plenty of space left for that internal jukebox to start playing.
“Likewise, if you are trying something too hard, then your brain will not be engaged successfully, so that music can come back. You need to find that bit in the middle where there is not much space left in the brain. That will be different for each individual.
“It is like a Goldilocks effect – it can’t be too easy and it can’t be too hard, it has got to be just right.”
Dr Hyman and his team conducted a series of tests on volunteers by playing them popular songs in an attempt to find out how tunes can become stuck in long term memory.
By playing songs by the Beatles, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé while the volunteers completed mazes drawn out on pieces of paper, they found they could get songs to play mentally in the participants heads and that they were then likely to recur intrusively through the next day.
They then tested whether performing puzzles such as Sudoku or anagrams would help to reduce the recurrence of the earworms.
They found that while Sudoku puzzles could help prevent the songs from replaying their heads, if they were too difficult it had little effect.
Anagrams were more successful and they found that solving those with five letters gave the best results.
“Verbal tasks like solving anagrams or reading a good novel seem to be very good at keeping earworms out,” said Dr Hyman, who now hopes to examine whether similar techniques could be used to prevent other intrusive thoughts caused by anxiety or obsessiveness.
He added: “Music is relatively harmless but easy to start. Choruses tend to get stuck in your head because they are the bit we know best and because we don’t know the second or third verse, the song remains unfinished. Unfinished thoughts are more likely to return.”
Surveys by scientists have revealed a wide variety of songs tend to end up as earworms with three quarters of people reporting unique songs not experienced by others. The most common tend to be popular songs that are in the charts or are particularly well known.
The Western Washington team found that Lady Gaga was the most common artist to get stuck in people’s heads, with four of her catchy pop songs being the most likely to become earworms – Alejandro, Bad Romance, Just Dance and Paparazzi.
Katy Perry’s California Girls also rated highly as the 2009 hit Hey, Soul Sister by American rock band Train.
Other surveys have reported Abba songs such as Waterloo, Changes by David Bowie or the Beatles’ Hey Jude.
Mountaineer Joe Simpson famously reported being bothered by a song he hated – Brown Girl in the Ring by Boney M – as he lay injured on a glacier in Peru. Fearing he might die, the tune played endlessly in his head, he later recalled.
Researchers, however, claim there is often little logic to the songs that become stuck in our heads but they often are songs we know well and like.
Dr Vicky Williamson, a music psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, has been studying earworms and says that the most likely songs to get stuck are those that are easy to hum along to or sing but are often unique to individuals.
She has identified a number events that can trigger these songs to intrude on our every day lives, including repeated exposure to a piece of music, recent exposure to the music, seeing lyrics from the song, moments of stress and allowing your mind to wander.
She has been working with BBC6 Music to ask members of the public to identify their own stories involving earworms and is now attempting to identify new “cures” for those bothered by unwanted tunes.
Dr Williamson said: “Even reading a line in a newspaper can trigger the domino effect that starts a song running. During the trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor, we got a lot of people reporting Michael Jackson songs getting stuck in their head.
“Earworms seem to be the key to understanding how music gets so automatically connected in memory – we think we can use that. It could help alleviate people who are suffering from distressing thoughts.
“On learning we could help people suffering from cognitive decline, so if they can’t remember the stages to make a cup of tea, if you tech them it as a song, then they could make their own cup of tea rather than relying on other people.”
Some of the easiest songs to get stuck in your head (as used by the researchers)
Alejandro – Lady Gaga
Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
Call me Baby – Carly Rae Jepsen.
Single Ladies – Beyoncé
She Loves You – The Beatles
I Wanna Hold Your Hand – The Beatles
She Loves You – The Beatles
SOS – Rihanna
You Belong with Me – Taylor Swift