Psychiatrist Victor Aziz has suggested that some iPod users are experiencing musical hallucinations owing to the constant repetition of favourite songs.
Dr Aziz was recently featured in a New York Times article discussing musical hallucinations. This story was touted as ‘brain becomes an iPod’ because musical hallucinations can take the form of complete songs or melodies.
In an interesting twist, however, Aziz suggests the use of personal music players may lead to musical hallucinations in some people.
This is not as far fetched as it sounds. A recent brain scanning study used a technique where songs were silenced for short intervals when played, and showed that the auditory cortex remained active when people continued ‘hearing’ the silenced tune.
The constant repetition of the same music may produce a similar effect, perhaps leading to the hallucinations.
In July’s issue of the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry Aziz and colleague Nick Warner reviewed 30 cases of musical hallucinations in older people and found the hallucinations could be very specific and distinct:
The hymn ‘Abide with me’ was clearly the most frequent music heard. In 2/3 of cases religious music predominated, with Christmas music also common. In most cases the music took the form of solo voice (male or female) with instrumental backing. Two people could identify the singer (George Formby and Luciano Pavarotti).
Link to story ‘IPod hallucinations face acid test’.
Link to story ‘iPods could make you hallucinate’ from the London Evening Standard.
Link to New York times article ‘Neuron Network Goes Awry, and Brain Becomes an IPod’.