Earworms. They can attack at any time and nearly everyone succumbs to them.


This is the term Dr Tim Byron uses to describe when a song gets stuck in your head and refuses to budge.


“Most of us know that music causes us to feel. It has to do with releasing tension and creating anticipation. It affects our lives,” he says.


“However, from an academic viewpoint, the cognitive psychology relating to the way we receive and respond to music is intriguing.”


Through his research, the music psychology academic has designed a new online course, Music, Mind and Brain, for the Queensland Conservatorium exploring perception, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, social psychology and personality psychology.


“The academic term for earworms is involuntary musical imagery, which conveys how you can’t help getting a song or part of a song stuck in your head, whether you like it or not, and also how it’s playing there but not in real life,” Dr Byron said.


Dr Byron said the frequency by which people are affected by earworms was confirmed by an experiment in which participants’ reactions were monitored after listening to a repetition of selected songs.


“The songs had been successful on the UK pop charts, but had enjoyed very little impact here.”


“We played them to the participants and sent text messages throughout the day, asking what was in their heads at the time. In every case, they were experiencing earworms.”


Buoyed by the reaction to a recent article exploring the “earworm gold” of the song Get Lucky by French electronic music duo Daft Punk, Dr Byron said he was fascinated by what music did after it entered the ears.


“Perhaps the only ones not affected are those who suffer amusia, people unable to recognise pitch or rhythm and for whom music is just an impenetrable noise.”


Rolling Stone compiled a list of the most annoying songs sure to echo in our brains following a reader survey earlier this year with the top 20 named as:
1. Black Eyed Peas, My Humps
2. Los Del Rio, Macarena
3. Baha Men, Who Let The Dogs Out
4. Celine Dion, My Heart Will Go On
5. Nickelback, Photograph
6. Lou Bega, Mambo No. 5
7. James Blunt, You’re Beautiful
8. Spice Girls, Wannabe
9. Sisqo, The Thong Song
10. Cher, Believe
11. Aqua, Barbie Girl
12. Chumbawumba, Tub Thumper
13. Rednex, Cotton-Eyed Joe
14. Eiffel 65, Blue
15. Crash Test Dummies, Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
16. Meatloaf, I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)
17. ‘NSYNC, Bye, Bye, Bye
18. Ricky Martin, Livin’ La Vida Loca
19. Semisonic, Closing Time
20. Wham!, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go