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“Some sounds work just as well as a couple of cups of coffee,” says Alfred Tomatis, a distinguished French hearing expert. This means that we can use music as a…

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Musical hallucinations

Music in itself sounding in the head. Is that familiar?

Probably this happens with everyone, which is already there. Some “Praskovya girl” will get attached, spin, spin, and stop. Another thing is when a melody begins to sound continuously and is perceived as if it comes from outside. This is a disaster.

“A song playing from time to time in your head is normal. Another thing is musical hallucinations, they become a serious problem. People cannot sleep, they cannot think,” says British psychiatrist Victor Aziz, who, along with a colleague Nick Warner recently returned the attention of scientists to the psychopathological problem of “music in the brain.”

What are these hallucinations, and what is it like to live with them – we explain with an example.

Once upon a time there was a 70-year-old woman in California, let’s call her Miss Maggie. One night, she woke up from a small earth-quake, usual as rain. At last, the earth stopped shaking, and Maggie tried to sleep. But then she heard a melody – a sad old song in the spirit of “How Young We Were” sounded rather loudly but not deafeningly in her head.

When Maggie was a girl, her father played the song on the piano. And now an elderly woman sits in bed and listens, she cannot fall asleep. The song continues, repeating for many hours. It is not known how, but Maggie managed to disconnect. In the morning she came to herself under the same “How Young We Were.”

The New York Times has compared the brain of a man suffering from musical hallucinations with an iPod.

Gradually, over the course of several months, the repertoire was enriched, other melodies sounded. Music often began to sound when Maggie went to bed or when she drove a car. In any case, the “concert” lasted several hours. The sound was always bright, as if an orchestra was playing nearby.

Of course, this began to strain the woman. After some time, she found the only way to turn off the music in her head – unfortunately, for this she had to play a radio – wedge wedge.

At the same time, the melodies in my head had another sinister quality: even the most beloved pieces of music that sounded “inside” once, could not be perceived from ordinary sources, they were wildly annoying.

After months of torture, Maggie still decided to turn to her doctor with her problem. Oddly enough, the patient’s story did not surprise the doctor. He told the woman that she was suffering from a little-known and rare disorder – musical hallucinations – and refers to a small but significant number of people who hear music that simply does not exist.

Most sufferers are elderly. Songs often come to them from the deepest “archives” of memory. Some have Italian opera, which in time immemorial parents loved to listen to. Others rattled hymns, played jazz, or made popular tunes.

Someone gets used to and even enjoys, but such units. The bulk of them are trying to stop the music: they close windows and doors, put cotton wool in their ears or sleep with a pillow on their heads – that doesn’t help, of course.

Meanwhile, musical hallucinations are not a new phenomenon; they invaded the minds of people of past centuries. For example, the famous composer Robert Schumann hallucinated with music at the end of his life and recorded this fact – he informed his descendants that he wrote under the dictation of the ghost of Schubert.

But these hallucinations have not been recognized by doctors as an independent disorder for a long time. There have been attempts to relate musical hallucinations to a range of human conditions, including old age, deafness, brain tumors, drug overdoses, and even liver transplants.

But only one thing was clear: musical ones should not be confused and confused with other hallucinations, such as voices and visions, since a person can listen to melodies without any other distortion of reality.

Robert Schuman confessed to hallucinations.

The first large-scale study of musical hallucinations was conducted in a Japanese psychiatric hospital in 1998. There, 6 out of 3 thousand 678 patients were found to hear music in their heads. This ratio, however, does not reflect the real state of affairs, since all patients had serious mental disorders.

So, Japanese psychiatrists and their few followers found out that our brain processes music through a unique network of neurons. First, the sounds at the entrance to the brain activate the area near the ears, called the primary auditory cortex, which begins to process sounds at their most basic level.

The auditory cortex then passes its own signals to other areas that can recognize the more complex features of music, such as rhythm and melody.

It turned out that this network of neurons in the auditory cortex may begin to work not as it should, without affecting any other areas of the brain with its “failure”.

Timothy Griffiths, a British hearing impairment expert at Newcastle University Medical School, continued his work in this area.

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