I hate when I get a song stuck in my head. Most often it’s just a couple of lines from the refrain, but it drives me crazy. (Anyone have the Fine Young Cannibals song in their head now?) I deviously enjoy planting a song in someone else’s brain. Like asking someone, “How does the theme to Hawaii Five-0 go?” or leaving a snippet of a song on someone’s voicemail (usually a song that annoys them). I am a master at this! These snippets of music that rattle around like pinballs in our heads are called “ear worms” and scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes them. For some reason, areas of the brain keep firing causing the repetition of the song in our minds. It’s believed that sometimes stress can be a factor and some research has shown that ear worms are more common in women and musicians. (You non-musical males may be lucky!) But most people, at some point, have experienced this annoyance.
However, there are times that a tune’s ability to stick in our head is a good thing. For instance, music has been used for many years to help us remember information. How many of you learned the Preamble to the Constitution from watching Schoolhouse Rock? (I’m singing it right now.) Music is a great mnemonic device (that’s just a fancy term for techniques that help us remember things).
Songs were used to help remember and pass on information important to survival even before written language. Rhythm, rhyme and melody make things easier to remember than information by itself. There are also other triggers like novelty and emotional connection that music provides. And when it comes to attention and focus, a vital component of learning, music often grabs our attention and allows us to tune out distraction.
The catchier a song is, the more we remember it. With that in mind, today is the launch of Marbles Brain Beats. Brain Beats is a compilation of catchy, educational songs designed to help you learn information like all of the states and their capitals, the first 84 digits of pi and greetings in multiple language. If one of our songs gets stuck in your head, at least you will be learning something new.