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April 29, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Mad Science – I Just Can’t Get It Out of My Head

There have been some pretty horrible things happening recently—North Korea is PMS-ing, Kim and Kanye have proven their fertility, and worst of all, Thatcher is definitely dead. But there is one problem shared by 98 per cent of the population that has yet to get the attention it deserves—earworm infestation. This serious affliction, also known as ‘I Just Can’t Get [It] Out Of My Head’ Syndrome, relates to the phenomenon whereby snippets of a catchy song inexplicably repeat inside your head.

An attack of the earworms can only lead to treble and usually involves a small portion of a song equal to or less than the capacity of one’s auditory short-term memory, usually 15-30 seconds long according to researcher Daniel Levitin. Song with lyrics account for 73.7 per cent of earworms, whereas instrumental music causes just 7.7 per cent of cases. Commercial jingles also struck a chord with test subjects, which will come as no surprise to anyone who shouted Pizza Hut’s glorious 0800 83 83 83 at the top of their lungs.

Scientists can even predict which songs will become addictive, with people getting their greatest dopamine fix from songs that are simple, predictable and repetitive—the not-so-secret recipe for most pop songs. Sadly research has yet to confirm whether the hipster community’s dedicated rejection of pop may have transpired into some form of acquired immunity against earworms.

So by now you have probably now come to the realisation that you have a major or minor earworm problem that you’d like to scale Bach. Perhaps ‘Call Me Maybe’ has stopped being music to your ears? Maybe you want to sing “baby, baby, baby, NO!!” Well, don’t stress; as usual, science has come to the rescue with methods for how you can Handel the situation.

On a high note, researchers have discovered strategies for treating earworms. Western Washington University researchers found that engaging the working memory in moderately difficult tasks such as anagrams, Sudoku puzzles, or reading a novel can help. Music psychologist Dr Ira Hyman warns that if you try something too hard the music can come back as your brain will not have been engaged successfully. So watch out for anything too challenging, such as actually studying or seriously considering it.

Finally, researchers suggest you avoid these artists/songs like the plague if you want to survive earworm attacks: Lady Gaga, ‘Call Me Maybe’, ‘Single Ladies’, The Beatles, Taylor Swift and Rihanna.

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