AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Music In Your Head 24/7?

Have you ever experienced a song just playing constantly in your head? Well the consistent music playing in your head is known as an INMI, involuntary musical imagery, or earworms. There is new research on what happens to the brain when INMIs are formed. There have been several theories about INMI and how it affects the brain. 90% of people reported that they experience INMIs at least once a week. Within the 90% there was 25% of people who have INMIs several times a day. For the most part people find INMIs to be fairly pleasant. However, if you are somebody that feels as though INMIs are fairly irritating well you’re not the only one.  A third of the 25% of people found INMIs to be irritating. The people who find the INMIs to be more unpleasant their brain has a slight difference structurally and has more gray matter in the parts of the brain that are associated with emotional processing.



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Studies also show that when you are doing actions that do not require much brain power: washing dishes, getting dressed, brushing your teeth, etc., then the brain would most likely form INMIs. The brain forms these INMIs due to lack of entertainment. Therefore, these INMIs will form in order to keep your mind busy. This theory worked during a certain study when a scientist, Dr. Stewart, tested how many INMIs would occur for certain workloads. Dr. Stewart would give a group of people two different working environments. One environment required less brain power while the other environment had a workload that required more thinking. The environment that required less brain power would cause people to form INMIs while the more intense workload would have no effect. Therefore, the more challenging the activity the less likely you will form INMIs.


Symptoms of INMIs are similar to symptoms of OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder. INMIs deal with intrusive thoughts, which draws a connection to the intruding thoughts people with OCD tend to have. There was a period of time people considered symptoms of INMIs to be similar to schizotypy, which is a disorder that can result in schizophrenia. However, when people were treated with neuroleptic medicine, which is used for people who are schizophrenic there was no change in the amount of INMIs that occurred. Therefore, it is more likely that INMIs are connected to OCD rather than schizotypy. There is still a lot more research needed in order to understand how connected INMIs are to OCD.

Although INMIs can be irritating there is a simple way to stop them for occurring. The simple way of stopping them would be to keep yourself busy with an activity that requires more brain power. This could be as simple as talking to a friend, watching a movie, or reading a book. More research is to come about what types of people are more likely to acquire INMIs. Do you think there is a certain group of people who are more likely to acquire INMIs or do you believe that INMIs occur based solely on the environment and intensity of brain power?

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  1. joules

    This is so interesting endotheleeum! After further research, I learned that INMI’s can be triggered by chance encounters with certain sights or sounds. Though these are annoying, it seems that 56% of people treated them passively, just let them disappear. ( )

  2. agman

    Thanks for the great article Endotheleeum! I constantly get songs caught in my head and finally understand the reason now! I researched your article more and found a great study done by Tom Stafford about this same topic. He calls this topic “Earworms.” Here is the link if you would like to check it out!:

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