Singing in the Brain

Ok – I totally stole the title for this post from MIT – but it was so ridiculously, ideally cheesy that I couldn’t resist.  While the article itself does present some interesting research about development, babble, and different areas of the brain, I must confess I was more amused by the title.  Everyone should take a look though, for the knowledge, and especially for the funny little songbird clips.

So.  Singing in the brain.  We’ve all done it – some wonderful, or completely annoying song or jingle will get stuck in our head, and there’s no getting it out.  You’ll be going through your day, and suddenly an old snatch of song or phrase (Bob Loblaw) will jump into your awareness.  How does this happen?  Just what are these little hiccoughs of memory and experience?  Why one song instead of another?  Why any song at all?

Though there is division about whether or not music (in particular, one type of music) aids memory, I am more interested in the particulars of spontaneous recall of a song.  Does the pattern of the rain remind me of some subtle rhythm?  Is it a particular phrase that reminds me of half-forgotten lyrics, springing full against my mind?  Does some sharp smell trigger an emotional or even visceral response that calls the past back to life?  Is it movement, the gentle touch of a hand, or the swift shifting between people in a crowd, that triggers the inner mind to sing?  Is it all of these, and something more besides?  Is it some subtle connection of inner vision, emotional and hormonal response of the body, and endless looping sparks of the memory that collide to yank a song from its memory space?

It’s an intriguing thought to me, the way all these triggers could interact.  I hope we don’t come up with a complete answer anytime soon.  It would take some joy out of the pondering, and take some delight out of the song.


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