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For everyone who has ever had a song maddeningly stuck in their head, science may have an answer as to why.

A new study has discovered that the experience of ‘involuntary musical imagery’, otherwise understood as hearing music inside your mind, is more frequent in people with brains that have thicker corticles in areas involved in auditory perception and pitch discrimination. These areas are known to react when Music is playing, and were found to be physically larger in people who reported frequently having music stuck in their head.

In addition to difference in corticle thickness, the hippocampus and grey matter also appear to be differently shaped in ways that correlate to the frequency of musical imagery. There is more grey matter in the emotion-related portion of the brain for people who found ‘earworms’ distracting, while people who found it easier to focus when hearing music had a larger hippocampus; an area involved in memory. Human Sciences and Biological Natural Science applicants should read further into how the proportion of different brain matter has evolved over time.

As far as ‘why’ songs get stuck in your head, another study may have an answer. Lauren Stewart, professor at Goldsmith’s, University of London, has identified several anecdotes of people experiencing intense musical imagery during near-death experiences. Experimental Psychology applicants should investigate how possible it is to test this anecdotal hypothesis in a study. Ms Stewart goes on to suggest that “earworms might have a homeostatic role in not allowing you to slip too far below consciousness”. As such, if you find yourself unable to get a song out of your head, bear in mind that it might be your body’s subtle way of telling you to wake up and concentrate.

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