“This is your brain on Christmas music”: Professor studies neuroscience of holiday tunes

WTKR – Christmas music is inescapable this time of year. According to science, there’s a reason why, and it has to do with memory.

In a new study, local neuroscientist Brian Rabinovitz tackled the neuroscience of Christmas music: why radio stations play the same few classics every year, how we recognize different versions of one song and why it’s so ubiquitous. A musician himself, he is currently serving as a visiting lecturer in the College of William & Mary’s Department of Psychological Sciences and will teach a course on musical cognition in the spring.

Rabinovitz’s specialized field of study deals with memory and what makes people remember or forget songs. Specifically, he studies how the brain gets information from music, stores that information and makes sense of it. When we hear a song for the first time, the brain searches a “catalog” of musical structures it’s been building since we first listened to music.

Rabinovitz says whether we enjoy that new music is contingent upon whether we can predict patterns in the new music that align with what we have stored in our catalogs.

Read more at WTKR.

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Mike Renlund, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0