So I recently just moved down to Texas from the city of brotherly love. It has been a pretty intense transition in my life to say the least. That being said all the traveling and moving has given me a chance to listen to my entire library of tunes. Having been working in this industry for a few years now and having been a fan of dance music for all of my life I can that I have quite the collection. I mean I love all genres of EDM from Trap to Trance, but during this revisiting of songs from yesteryear I noticed that some of these tracks seriously triggered memories that I barely could remember without the help of the particular song. It has been bizarre, reflective, painful at points but more than anything…fascinating.
Obviously music induced memories are a pretty common theme in terms of the human experience, so it got me thinking; Why do some songs stay stuck in our brain and help trigger incredibly vivid, autobiographical memories? I dug around and found some interesting research. As I delved deeper into the rabbit hole I found some awesome scientific research that not only explains why but also explains why in the future EDM and the music of today could be some of our best therapy against Alzheimer's Disease and other degenerative brain disorders. Yes you heard that correctly, in 60 years from now when our generation is slowly aging into decay, ‘Sun and Moon' might help combat the effects of the aging brain.
So here is the scenario. You are driving down the road, listening to your Ipod on shuffle and all of a sudden a track comes on that you haven't heard in years and BAM before you can even name the tune you are in a different time and place. Maybe you remember the girl you fell in love with during high school, or moving into your college dorm, or even the first time you heard dance music and realized that this type of music was going to impact your life in a profound way. Well you have a few key areas of the brain to thank for that. The second your temporal lobes started to decipher the complex neurological signals sent from the eardrum another area of the brain starts to light up with a flutter of neurotransmitters and associated activities, the upper part of medial prefrontal cortext. The dorsal part of the prefrontal cortext is responsible for memories. There lies the link between music and memory.
This link is so strong research has been done with an MRI that shows that the brain's memory center tracks the chord progression of a song just as the area that is ‘hearing' the music. Literally songs with strong emotional ties to them trigger a memory and as we listen to the song play out we step by step vividly recall the associated memory. This is the reason why I can't hear songs like Avicii's remix of ‘Drowning' or Deorro's ‘Five Hours' without starting to well up with tears as I remember relationships destroyed by my active addiction. But it is also the reason why I cannot stop smiling when I hear ‘Sun and Moon' by Above and Beyond or ‘Hot Like Sauce' by Pretty Lights. These two tracks trigger some of the most carefree and happiest times of my life. So as the opening riff and build up of ‘Five Hours' plays out, my brain takes me back to a time and masterfully plays out a memory of falling in love with all the associated emotions, feelings, and even accompanying scenery.
It is truly incredible the power of the mind. This link is so strong that even when the dorsal area of the prefrontal cortext starts to be affected by a degenerative brain disorder such as Alzheimer's Disease, music can still strike up powerfully vivid memories. Interestingly, it appears that if you haven't heard a song in years, the neural tapestry representing that song stays purer and the song will evoke stronger specific memories of a time and place from your past. This means when our golden generation of ravers is old and succumbing to the sands of time, we will theoretically be able to play tracks from our raving days and be blessed with vivid memories of the most emotionally powerful times of our youth. We are so lucky for the intense emotions created by EDM, it means that when we barely can remember our own families we will have a way to time travel back to the main stage of our favorite festivals and relive the moment when we locked eyes with the guy or girl who would soon become a major part of our still blossoming lives. So next time you are listening to throwback jams, do not underestimate the power of the feelings you experience because one day they might be your key to unlocking a cloudy past.
Source: Psychology Today