Can music trigger certain memories?

Sometimes we find ourselves feeling of flood of emotions when certain song comes on because it reminds us of something or someone from the past. Something about that specific song brings us back to a certain time and place and many people seem to think it’s inevitable but is there actually a science behind why music can trigger certain memories. Unknown

After a series of studies people began to realize that music triggering memories has to do with triggering certain neurons in our brain.  In 2013, a study  was published from Amee Baird and Severine Samson, from the University of Newcastle in Australia where they would play music for people with brain injuries in order to help them remember some memories from the past. Since they have trouble recalling memories due to their brain injuries it was interesting to see how the music impacted their ability to remember. During the study, they tested both people with brain injuries and a control group by playing top songs from throughout the subjects lifetime and with each song they had to state how familiar it was, whether they enjoyed it, and if it brought back any memories. In the end, the researchers found that the number of remembered songs by the brain injury group, 38%-71%, was almost similar to that of the control group, 48%-71%. The results of this study prove that music can trigger some kind of emotions and memories because normally the brain injured subjects would not be able to remember the memories on their own but the music helped them. Also, these two scientistic broke through a medical discovery because with this information they can now use it to stimulate the memories of patients that struggle with the inability to store autobiographical memories. Basically, if music can stimulate memories for a person with brain injuries, it make total sense how when we hear a song it time travels us to a certain time and place causing a overwhelming emotional few minutes.

Music is a huge part of our world, whether its played at a party, while driving in the car, or warming up for a big game, it has the ability to heighten emotions, intensify our moods, but most importantly trigger certain memories. Because of its prominence in our world, people began to investigate and complete studies focusing on the impact of music on the human brain. As seen above, many studies came to the conclusion that music had the ability help people recall certain times of their past life but how?

In 2006, scientists Istvan Molnar Szakacs and Katie Overy published an article  describing their thoughts of how the brain acts in response to music. They believed that when listening to music the human mirror neuron system neuron is what “runs the whole show.” This system is what helps the brain couple perception and production of hierarchically sequential information, then giving the brain the ability to trigger meaning and emotion.  Overall, the generation of memories when a certain song comes on may just be something you have always experienced but never really thought about but now you know there is a whole science behind it.

Understanding the effects of music on the brain is very important for both doctors and people because as we saw in the study above it can help patients with brain injuries, and who knows if we try it maybe it can help a whole lot more. So now when you’re driving down the highway and the song that reminds you of your ex-boyfriend comes one and you start crying, remember to blame your human neuron system.

6 thoughts on “Can music trigger certain memories?

  1. Gabriela Isabel Stevenson

    This is probably one of my favorites to read because music means so much to me. Certain songs can take me back to a time in my life when everything was going great, or a particular moment when I felt overjoyed. In the same sense, music can also take me back to some of the saddest times in my life, and everyone has a song that can remind them of an ex or a past relationship. I would have loved to see a brain scan or something that showed what parts of the brain light up when certain songs come on. Great job!

  2. Michael Fan

    This reminds me of the concept of conditioning, a concept first demonstrated by Pavlov and his dog. Pavlov would ring a bell everytime before feeding his dog, and therefore, after a while, when Pavlov would ring the same bell, his dog would salivate, thinking there would be food, because its mind has instinctively associated the bell with food.

    This has implications that even reaches students. There have been studies done where participants seem to recall information better if they are asked to recall information in the same place. For example, if students always studied in a classroom, and took an exam in the same classroom, chances are they would do better on the exam.

  3. sjb5895

    After I read this article, I was pretty convinced music does trigger neurons in your brain. I find it really cool how an injured brain almost worked just as well as a regular brain when listening to music. That could open a whole new door on how to treat brain injuries with music. I believe that music does trigger memories because of how neurons react when they hear the music. Really interesting article, thanks for sharing.

  4. Emily M Hernberg

    This article sparked an interest in me because I definitely can recall countless times where a song comes on my iPod and I can vividly remember a moment in my life that I always think of when I hear a specific song.

  5. Lauren Ann Heess

    This post was interesting to me because I always associate music with certain places or times and never knew how that was possible. I could hear a certain song on the radio and think of a memory from years ago. This association between music and memories makes it very possible for emotions to resurface and now I know it’s due to the human neuron system. Another association that happens a lot to me is between smell and memoires. Here’s a link why that happens.

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