Earworms brain accelleration (the auditory cortex)

‘Earworms’ is a term for those (annoying) catchy tunes that you just can’t get out of your head.

We have put this phenomenon to a positive educational use with a unique combination of music and scientific innovation.


earworms (mbt) – Accelerated learning – in a nutshell:

Ever wondered why you just can’t get that song out of your head? earworms uses this same brain function to boost the retention of words and phrases when learning a language. It’s a well known fact that we use only a fraction of our brain power and traditional book learning is now recognised as not suiting every learner.

Course author Marlon Lodge recognised this early on in the context of his teaching and has developed simple techniques which open up and exploit more of the brain’s native power.

He explains: “Music is an ideal medium for learning. It gets to deeper subconscious levels of your memory, and most people really enjoy it….Although you feel that you are just listening to music, subconsciously you are taking in masses of verbs, nouns and connecting words, and picking up the correct accent all the time!”

The idea is as simple as it is old. Before the age of writing, ancient historical events (e.g. in the Finnish sagas) were recorded in verse and song form for easy memorisation. In his book ‘Songlines’ Bruce Chatwin describes how the Australian Aborigines were able to navigate their way across hundreds of miles of desert to their ancestral hunting grounds without maps. And how? The extensive lyrics of their traditional songs were exact descriptions of the routes!

Rhythm and words, i.e. song and verse, have always been a very powerful memory aid, and this is supported by recent scientific research*. The advertising industry knows only too well how powerful music can be in getting the message across with brainwashing-like jingles and sound-bites.

What you learn. How the courses are structured.

earworms adopts the so-called lexical approach to language. In essence, this means we look at language in terms of whole meaningful chunks, then break these down into their component bite-sized, easily digestible, easily absorbable parts and then reconstruct them. You not only learn complete, immediately useful phrases, you also intuitively learn something about the structure (the grammar) of the language.
These ‘chunks’ which the learner can ‘mix and match’, gradually build up to cover whole areas of the language.

This may sound logical to the layman, but it is only very recently that this approach (as expounded by Michael Lewis in his book “The Lexical Approach”) has been taken up in the classroom.

In the March 2005 issue of the journal “Nature” researchers at Dartmouth College in the US reported that they had pinpointed the region of the brain where ‘earworms’ or catchy tunes reside, the auditory cortex. They found that the sounds and words that have actually been heard can be readily recalled from the auditory cortex where the brain can perceptually hear or reconstruct them. Music, it seems, is the ideal catalyst to memorisation.

The reasons for lack of language learning motivation has a lot to do with our preconceptions – that it must be difficult, time consuming and dry, and this pretty much reflects the state of affairs in the UK language learning scene.
Given the widespread popularity of pop music especially in Britain, and the fact that music has been scientifically proven to be an excellent memory aid, earworms is a language learning tool ‘made in heaven’ for UK learners, especially young learners who the government has in its sights at the moment. The system has been extremely successful in classroom tests, and the resonance among teachers and pupils has been more than enthusiastic.

A common reaction has been “Why hasn’t this been done before?” or “At last a learning product that really helps you to remember!”

Imagine kids at school getting a CD of cool songs with all the historical dates or all the French verbs they have to learn, or all the countries and capitals of the world! Wouldn’t that make their (and teachers’) school lives much easier, much more fun, much more successful.

Rest assured we are working on it.

Best Regards
Andrew Lodge

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The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.