Why Your Brain Loves Music1
May 9, 2015
When you have a song stuck in your head, you should realize that your brain is masturbating; like an addict.
Maybe a less provocative word would be self-stimulating, but either way, the brain loves music.
That desperate DJ, spinning compulsive records, is the Prefrontal cortex, the lead singer of your ego.
It scrolls through your I-tunes, craving the familiar pleasurable Dopamine high that music delivers.
It is interesting to think about how well your brain remembers songs and lyrics, even many years after hearing the original song. Especially, if a certain song triggers a memory either through lyrics or music.
These types of songs hold our hand, leading us down memory lane, when emotions were new and more intense.
These soundtracks represent an almost infinite playlist, of your Walk Of Life.
All the Dire Straights, Hearts of Glass, and Stairways to Heaven are stored, to be played, at our inner discretion.
While we occasionally get the words wrong, and go wookin pa nub in all da wong paces, most of us likely have 1000’s of lyrics and song melodies memorized, verbatim, in our cranial cabinets.
Compare that, to how well we can remember, or paraphrase, even 10 sentences from any book we have ever read.
The brain is a computer, and reality is the internet. We maneuver our Newtonian bound avatars through a subjectively perceived sensory world; yet many powerful forces are outside of our awareness.
We encounter stimuli that course through our crooked antennae, relaying signals to the brain that the mind then interprets.
And those things that we focus our attention on, act like connections between our homepage, and a new site; and we download constantly, in real time.
Our supercomputer is the most complicated structure yet found in the known universe, and has a crap ton of memory.
To get some idea, let me continue the computer comparison.
1 unit of memory in a computer is called a BYTE.
Think of it like 1 mouthful of information the computer chews on, as it digests the several course meal of the program.
Typically a byte is a single digit; the letter A or number 6, or a symbol, like
Since it takes many bytes, to even make this sentence, computer memory capacity has grown Moore larger all the time.
A few years ago, 1 thousand bytes, called a KILOBYTE, was a big deal. These days, depending on the format, that would allow for a single second of an iTunes song.
Next came Dr. Evil’s millions of bytes, called MEGABYTES, and a typical ditty on that movie soundtrack uses 5 to 10.
After that, GIGABYTES showed up, by the billions.
1 thousand gigabytes is called a TERABYTE (trillions), which is in the ballpark of how much memory newer home computers are using.
To visualize just how much memory we are talking about,
1 terabyte is 1, 000, 000, 000, 000
(10 to the 12th power), of bytes.
The human brain contains about 1 billion nerve cells called neurons.
These neurons form about 1 trillion connections, between close and distant neural neighbors, throughout the brain.
Each synapse in the brain represents a memory from your personal library; you organize these more meticulously than Apple.
A byte, in computer currency, is like playing a single key on the piano.
At each of our organic connections however, multiple memories can be stored.
Thus, the mere mouthful of the computer’s bite is no match for the morsels we savor; stuffed in our neural cheeks.
Our memory feasts; on delectable chords, and 4 course symphonies. But to the brain, it feels like only 1 byte.
This gives the brain, a significant memory storage advantage, over anything yet invented.
Even though it weighs less than 3 pounds, the human brain’s memory capacity is between
2 – 3 PETABYTES.
What the heck is a petabyte? A PETABYTE is one thousand terabytes, or 10 to the 15th power, of bytes.
So, it makes a lot more sense that the brain is able to store incredible amounts of information, but how does music get from out there, to in here?
That, my friends, will be on the flip side of the brain’s greatest hits, in Part 2 of Why the Brain Loves Music, ‘How It Gets In’.
Simon Trepel MD
Note- those numbers made me think of Facebook, with its 1.5 billion users. If the ‘average’ person has 400 friends, that is about 1 trillion connections. Is it possible, that Facebook behaves as one unique ‘brain’, in the internet neighborhood? That gives me a bigger byte than I can swallow.
Simon Trepel, MD FRCPC, is a practicing Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, in Winnipeg, Canada. He is an Assistant Professor, at the University Of Manitoba, in the Faculty of Medicine, and the Co-founder of the GDAAY Clinic. He is, more importantly, the proud Father of 2 beautiful Daughters. He writes in his spare time about things he knows something about, and occasionally about things he doesn’t; like Yoga, and Italian flavored coffees. He was not referring to coffee that tastes like an Italian person.
Check out his Blog, called Simon Says Psych Stuff, at