Are you sometimes burdened by a song that you just can't get out of your head?
If so, chances are you might need help.
There are musical hallucinations, and they can be serious neurological trouble. The New York Times' Carl Zimmer explains that a number of psychiatrists are studying a rare phenomenon in which some people find themselves tormented by songs that play over and over in their head:
"They suspect that the hallucinations ... are a result of malfunctioning brain networks that normally allow us to perceive music.
"They also suspect that many cases of musical hallucinations go undiagnosed."
The article includes the findings of a British neurologist who conducted brain scans of several elderly patients who suffer musical hallucinations. The researcher, Dr. Tim Griffiths, discovered that the patients in question did not use their primary auditory cortex, which is the first stop for sound that enters the brain for mental processing.
The paper continues:
"When no sound is coming from the ears, the brain may still generate occasional, random impulses that the music-processing regions interpret as sound. They then try to match these impulses to memories of music, turning a few notes into a familiar melody.
For most people, these spontaneous signals may produce nothing more than a song that is hard to get out of the head. But the constant stream of information coming in from the ears suppresses the false music."
In the wake of such scientific revelations, it is difficult not to remember Kiki Dee and her disposable hit single of 1974, "I've Got the Music in Me."
As she crooned:
"I got the music in me
Feel funky feel good
Gonna tell you I'm in the neighborhood
Gonna fly like a bird on the wing
Hold on to your hat, honey, sing, sing, sing, sing
I heat up, I cool down
I got words in my head, so I sing them
Don't let life get me down
Catch a hold of my blues and just play them"
What a sad, sorry tale. Now, in the bright sunlight of sunlight, we understand those agonizing words for what they were:
A cry for help.
Poor, poor Kiki. If only we had known. If only we had paid attention to the tears streaming down those silky cheeks as she begged us to understand, to help her, to quiet the demons that undoubtedly did the can-can and boogaloo and electric slide through her percussive-happy insides. She really did have the music in her. And it was hell.
If only we had known.