How Music Can Ignite The Memory

Have you ever been going on about your day, aimlessly, when you're in a store and a song starts playing that you haven't heard since you were a child? All of a sudden, so many other details start popping up in your head - the taste of the ice cream cone when you first heard that song, the way the sun was setting and your mother was laughing against the summer backdrop? Just a mere song can bring so many emotions to the surface, so many memories that you forgot you had.

On the flipside, the negative aspect of a song being so ingrained within our memory, is that if you and a past love had a special song - whenever that comes up on the radio or you see the particular artist doing an interview on TV, it can bring a flood of mixed emotions, perhaps even bringing you to tears, as it reminded you of love that you may have lost.

What is the science behind this? How can an art form that is seemingly invisible evoke visuals from a wrinkle in time? "Memory itself is composed of three storage systems. They’re spread across three networks and each has a different responsibility in the memory making process. These three networks are encoding, long-term memory, and recall. Encoding is the first step in creating memories. The process of laying down memories begins with attention, where a memorable event causes neurons to be stimulated more frequently."image-2019-06-19 (1).jpg

How about one's ability to remember lyrics of a song that you haven't heard in years? How does this work? Supposedly, the main reason behind why we are able to remember song lyrics as opposed to our passwords is due to the sheer fact that we care more about the song lyrics - they make more of an initial impact so the brain stores them in a different encoding, some may say a special encoding.

Let's talk about another aspect of memory and music - how the simple sounds of music can actually reignite one's general ability to remember, especially when it has weakened due to old age. Conscious LifeStyle Mag speaks on this, "The movie Alive Inside chronicles how music can assist in regaining parts of memory and improve the brain health and quality of life of Alzheimer’s patients. One of the caretakers in Henry’s nursing home interviews his family to find out the type of music Henry used to enjoy listening to before Alzheimer’s affected him. By creating playlists incorporating music specifically for Henry, the caretaker helps Henry reconnect with the world around him and brighten his mood. His eyes open, he is aware, and he is able to communicate. He was reconnected to his life from the music—his music."

Despite all of the pontificating and debating, at the end of the day, we believe that the only thing that can be agreed upon is that there is something magical within every note of every song that reaches out and effects us in a special, intangible, unexplainable way, burying itself inside of our memory - for decades to come.