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Music in the brain: A report on rare auditory hallucinations

149544446_801194f043Music may serve as a trigger to unlock memories - a rhyme might remind you of childhood, or an old pop song could place you back at a high-school party. When I'd ask my 90-something-year-old former ballet teacher to sing the song of a solo she danced in Cuba in 1941, her body remembered the waltz steps and she could recall the sight of palm trees, a full moon, and elegantly dressed men in hats and white suits from the nightclub where she had performed.

But what if a person's imagined music can't be turned off? A recent case of a 60-year-old woman hallucinating music she could not identify but that was familiar to others may be the first reported instance of its kind. "This phenomenon is in line with current understanding that musical hallucinations represent abnormal activity in the auditory associative cortices, raising intriguing questions regarding memory, forgetting and access to lost memories," authors of the case report write.

The woman experienced hallucinations - sometimes the same song for three weeks at a time - as though sourced from a radio inside her head. Although rare, musical auditory hallucinations more commonly occur in older people, according to a release.

From the report:

Musical hallucinations still represent a disorder without clear etiology.

Several conditions are considered potential etiologic or predisposing factors, including hearing impairment, psychiatric disorders, focal brain lesions, generalized brain atrophy, epilepsy, and intoxications.

Further research is necessary on the mechanisms of forgetfulness; in other words is forgotten information lost, or just not accessible?

The case report and brief literature review from researchers at Loyola University of Chicago was published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology.

Previously: Brains of different people listening to the same piece of music actually respond in the same waySynesthesia inspires Chocolate Heads performanceHow music therapy may benefit surgery patients and Can playing familiar music boost cognitive response among patients with brain damage?
Photo by mastermaq

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