You drive to work, listening to your favorite song. When you arrive at the company, you finish your morning work singing the song, have your lunch with your feet tapping it out, and feel sleepy in the early afternoon with the song playing in your head. You want it to stop, but it plays on a loop.
Why does the song just get stuck there?
Earworms as culprits
Earworms are the catchy songs or tunes that run continually through your mind, causing you a sort of “cognitive itch” or “brain itch,” a need for the brain to fill in the gaps in a song’s rhythm.
Songs and tunes trigger a part of the brain called the auditory cortex. When you listen to a song, especially a familiar one, your auditory cortex automatically fills in the rest. To put it in another way, your brain keeps “singing” long after the song had ended.
The only way to “scratch” brain itch is to repeat the song over and over in your mind. However, the more you scratch, the more you itch – like mosquito bites. You are stuck in an unending song cycle.
The reason above is, however, only one of the many possible reasons that scientists have raised to explain why songs get stuck in our heads.
Some researchers say stuck songs are like thoughts we're trying to suppress. The harder we try not to think about them, the more we can't help it. Other experts claim that earworms are simply a way to keep the brain busy when it's idling.
Women seem to be more susceptible to earworms, but the reason is still unknown.
How to get songs out of your head
There are several ways you can take a try, but unfortunately no absolutely effective way is discovered yet.
1. Sing another song, or play another melody on an instrument.
2. Switch to an activity that keeps you busy, such as working out.
3. Listen to the song all the way through (this works for some people).
4. Turn on the radio or a CD to get your brain tuned in to another song.
5. Share the song with a friend (but don't be surprised if the person become an ex-friend when he or she walks away humming the tune).
6. Picture the earworm as a real creature crawling out of your head, and imagine stomping on it.
Anyway, getting a song playing on a loop in your head is perfectly normal and happens to almost everyone. Don’t worry if you meet the same situation, and try to get rid of it with the methods introduced above.