“Ear worms” are not parasites invading our ears, they are tunes you can’t get out of your head. Scientists want to learn what makes a tune so catchy, it “hooks” your brain so you can’t forget it. Advertisers and jingle writers would like to know this secret too.

Researchers reported in the journal Nature that they played the same tunes over and over for volunteers. They scanned their brains while this was being done, and found that Ear Worms are located in the auditory cortex, the part of the brain that takes in information from ears. The cortex activity continued even when the tunes weren’t being played, and the volunteers all said they could “hear” the tunes in their heads. This happened more often when the song was familiar. The songs included “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones and the theme from “The Pink Panther.”

Researcher David Kraemer thinks the lyrics might be what cause Ear Worms, but other research shows this isn’t so. For instance, one town in New Jersey banned the Mister Softee ice cream truck from playing its jingle as it drove down the street, because it was driving the residents crazy.

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

If you can sneak a jingle into people’s brains so they don’t notice, but they can?t forget your product, you can make one hell of a profit.

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