Radio “hits” deliver long term brain damage


Fri Nov 12, 2010 8:09am EDT



Researchers at the University of Nijmegen report today that sustained exposure to certain musical structures through headphones may, in as few as five years, shrink soft cartilaginous tissues of the outer ear and weaken craniofacial nerves. For 3% of test subjects, the effect is accompanied by slight deformation of the sinus cavity and neurasthenia within the prefrontal cortex.

Scientists believe the condition correlates significantly to a documented rise in musical homogeneity since 1985, an effect sociologists have attributed to the inability of audiences to dislodge aesthetic taste from narrow and repetitive conventions of popular music. The study has been funded as part of renewed efforts to investigate the role of socio-economic, cultural, and even aesthetic factors in human epigenetics. The multidisciplinary research team at the University of Nijmegen includes political scientists, anthropologists and ethnomusicologists. In their report, the team describes lax enforcement against payola radio; a statistical analysis of radio playlists reveal that a handful of songs on heaviest rotation have not changed in more than forty years.

The tendency to cling to outdated artistic forms as evidenced by the persistence of “hit music” in popular culture since 1965 is what led the Nijmegen researchers to investigate the possibility of attendant physical effects.  “We found a significant neurasthenic effect. Apparently, listening to Hotel California three thousand times doesn’t just suck, it can actually cave-in the head and debilitate the prefrontal cortex.” Martin Ledwick, head nurse on the research team, said in a statement. “Think of it as an injury, a kind of plantar fasciitis, the equivalent of shin splints caused by traipsing endlessly over one musical terrain.” 

Dr. Emil DeMaris, professor of Psychoacoustics, presented the group’s findings at a conference in Rotterdam. “Our species is perhaps poorly described as Homo Sapiens. We are in many ways a herd species, led astray by a willingness to conform to social stability so long as basic needs of food, shelter and clothing have been met. This social behavioral fact makes human beings particularly susceptible to the numbing effects of cultural homogeneity. The danger to humans is no different than domesticating other species; a herd of wild caribou survives in the shifting environment of arctic tundra, but slowly perishes in the stultifying terrarium environment, a Habi-trail, either for caribou or humans is a tool of genocide. We have been dangerously slow to detect the equivalent tools wielded in corporate advertising culture today.”

By focusing on contemporary art and popular music, DeMaris said his team sought to improve on “the myopia of the microscope” which passes for scientific method today.  “The assumption that humans are ruled by logic, long discredited in economics and political science, persists today as the facile foundation of too many scientific disciplines.” The report, to be published in the Journal of Psychoacoustics, concludes that human faculties of reason and perception are engaged most fully by experiences that are unnerving, confounding, and even terrifying.


Pressed by reporters to explain whether and how science should arbitrate aesthetic and cultural tastes, DeMaris explained that his team took an “anything but Top 40” approach and had found many contemporary artists actively developing radically new aesthetics. Study participants introduced to recordings from a new musical group called Nerfbau showed high brain function in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for fight or flight responses which are known to heighten acuity of perception. The researchers also cite facial expressions of anguish, horror, surprise, and amazement as responsible for the attendant strengthening of craniofacial nerves rooted to the outer ear. Such phenomena were present in fewer than .01% of control subjects who were more likely to exhibit slack facial expressions when exposed to music from the VH1 Classics playlist.

Members of the band Nerfbau were contacted for comment via their record label, Resipiscent. Responding by phone and only through voice masking software, one band member was quoted as saying, “Blood builds your smiles from loose screams.”

back to homepage


Thank you! This is the first real explanation of why i like Top 40 music!   Posted Nov 13, 2010 2:40pm by vg, cambridge, MA