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Maybe 2018 will bring better news. But as 2017 closes, I’ve received replies from only two of the research teams contacted this summer, both in the UK, who expressed interested in studying the pathological form of earworms (which some academics call “musical obsessions”). Both teams are currently unable to pursue the kind of studies proposed in my letters because they lack funding. One team also felt they lack the expertise to properly evaluate the dynamic brain scans and lab tests.

This is frustrating, but at the same time it made me realize that money is really the only obstacle in the way of meaningful research. Only money…

But let’s back up a sec…

For those who haven’t followed the progress of this recent quest, a recap might might be helpful.

A brief history

I have suffered from these persistent, maddening earworms ever since I began the transition into menopause about 15 years ago. After one solid year of having not one single second of quiet in my head day or night, I thought I would lose my mind. I eventually quieted the earworms with a combination of hormone replacement therapy and over the counter (OTC) supplements that suppress cortisol.

But early this year (2017) the earworms came back. I tried to determine what had changed in my body. Two things came to mind: (1) my hormone patches seemed to be far less effective than they had been before the product patent expired and generics became available; and (2) I had switched to a cheaper brand of one of my supplements, phosphatidylserine (or PS). I went back to the original brand of PS, and over the next month or so, the earworms began to fade again. Not completely, but dramatically.

During this same time, I continued to receive emails through my blog from more sufferers all over the world: Turkey, Columbia, Australia, the UK, and the US. Some of those people were suffering terribly and, sadly, I couldn’t help them other than to suggest they try PS. But even then, some countries don’t allow many vitamins and supplements to be imported. These people would go to their doctors, who would give them powerful psychoactive drugs, which, in some cases, made the symptoms worse or triggered new symptoms!

I had contacted many researchers and “experts” about 10 years ago and got nowhere. But I now knew so many more people tortured by these earworms who might be helped if only we could get someone to study what I’ve learned so far and to test my hypothesis. So I decided to try again.

This summer, I sent letters to six of the most promising research teams qualified to tackle the challenge of persistent earworms or music stuck in one’s head. These researchers had already studied various phenomena relevant to my hypothesis regarding the cause of, or predisposition for, our torturous looping music. I followed up a month later by email and received only two responses. Both were interested and sympathetic, but declined due to lack of funding.

The hypothesis

My hypothesis proposes that, when our bodies are subjected to certain chemical conditions, our brains become “sticky” or “magnetic,” so that songs we hear (or just think about) stick in our heads and play over and over, sometimes for months or years.

These conditions seem to have something to do with stress and the adrenal stress hormone, cortisol. They might also be related to the insulin resistance that excess cortisol can cause (but which can also have other causes, including diabetes).  Whether these are direct causes of earworms or symptoms of some other dysfunction that triggers or enables earworms, I don’t know. I just knew that some of us (like me) had found ways to quiet the earworms, and we needed to know why and how to apply that knowledge to help others.

The letters requesting research

The letters asked researchers to conduct studies of earworm sufferers alongside an equal number of control subjects to find out if there are specific patterns or conditions (in the brain scans and in the lab tests) that are peculiar to those of us with the earworms, and that are not present in control subjects.

Brain scans. The first request was to use dynamic tests such as fMRI or SPECT scans to observe the real-time activity in the brains of earworm sufferers versus that of unaffected control subjects. The hope is that scans of sufferers will show parts of the brain “lighting up” that should not be so active under resting conditions where no music is actually playing. Those differences might lead to further hypotheses about what parts of the brain are involved in this persistent earworm phenomenon, what can cause those areas to light up, and what consequences might result from such overactivity.

Lab tests. The second part of the proposal asked researchers to look at patterns of key chemicals in the blood or saliva of earworm sufferers versus those of unaffected control subjects. Any striking patterns or peculiarities in the labs of earworm sufferers would lead to new hypotheses about what might cause those patterns/peculiarities and how they might affect the brain.

Among the experts I contacted, a few were researchers who had studied common (short-term) earworms, and one who reported on the clinical history of patients with “musical obsessions” (persistent/pathological earworms) over the past several decades. And I contacted a few who have studied the connections between certain psychological conditions (such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder/OCD) and either cortisol directly or dysfunctions of the larger hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.

Disappointment and hope

So here we are at the end of 2017 and so far, nobody has stepped up to do any parts of the research. Yes, it’s very disappointing. But, again, I realized we are only held back from this research by money.  If we had enough money, researchers would be lining up to work with us. But we don’t, so what CAN we do?

Can we conduct lab studies on our own?

Yes, absolutely. It occurred to me that with even a manageable personal investment, many of us sufferers could at least fund and participate in the lab portion of the studies. There are a number of lab tests that can be ordered online and performed in the home. Some use saliva samples, while others use a tiny drop of blood on a card. We can test for sex hormones (estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, DHEAS), adrenal hormones (cortisol, cortisone, epinephrine), and neurotransmitters, among others.

We would have to either find funding for the control subjects’ tests or ask each earworm sufferer to pay for two sets of tests, one for themselves and one for a control subject.

Even without knowing the deeper significance of the results, we could nevertheless identify any obvious differences or patterns in sufferers versus controls and use that information to take the hypothesis to the next level, or, ideally, intrigue qualified researchers to follow up with new studies.

Can we conduct brain scans on our own?

As you might imagine, this part isn’t as simple. You can’t just show up at an imaging center, university, or hospital and ask for a brain scan, not even if you have a lot of money. However, those of us who are suffering with earworms might persuade our doctors to order such scans for ourselves and to code them in such a way that our insurance will cover the cost. Maybe our scans alone would be enough to show distinct, yet consistent, anomalies in our brain activity.

That just leaves the control subjects. How do we get dynamic brain scans of unaffected people? If we had enough money, we could pay researchers and fund their use of the scanning equipment. But we don’t have that kind of money. At least not right now.

Where do we go from here?

There are a few paths I can take next, including:

  • Continue looking for researchers with the interest, skills and funding to do our full studies.
  • Look for grants or private funding that would make it much easier to attract qualified researchers.
  • Find out if enough of us are willing and able to fund and conduct our own lab tests and organize such a study.

Although my earworms have subsided considerably since going back on the more expensive PS supplement, I know many others cannot get PS or do not get relief from it. There are more than 100 of us so far who have contacted me through this blog and who desperately need relief.

This is not a psychological disorder. If I can “cure” my earworms with hormones and supplements, and if others can cure theirs with diets that improve insulin sensitivity, and if still others can cure theirs by diagnosing and treating their diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions, then it is clearly a chemical problem with a (natural) chemical solution.

We don’t need drugs, we need to rebalance our bodies’ natural chemistry. But we need to know more about the condition and why/how certain chemicals affect us, so we can bring the diagnosis and treatment of this condition into mainstream medicine as well as to the naturopathic community.

If any of you have deep pockets or know someone who can afford to fund this research, please contact me to help us find a cause and cure for this maddening condition.

Wishing us all a quieter, more peaceful new year.

-Pat

 

 

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Earlier this year another victim of this stuck-music condition, which is often called “earworms,” contacted me in desperation. Her husband suffers earworms so bad he often bangs his head against the wall in an effort to quiet them. Or maybe it’s an attempt to bash them out of his head. In any case, my heart broke to hear about how terribly they both were suffering because of this maddening phenomenon.

I pulled out my old research and the stories I’ve collected from victims over the years. My intention is to document the phenomenon and then try again to find researchers with the interest, skills and capabilities to take all this accumulated information and test the chemical/hormonal hypothesis, or at least take the research in more helpful (for us) directions.

In an effort to describe in words what the experience is like for those of us being driven mad by the earworms, I recalled a recent vacation roadtrip with my husband in which we listened to several music CDs in the car and at the cabin in the mountains. I won’t even mention the artist whose double-CD ended up playing in my head for weeks (and now months) after the trip.  But since then, my earworms have grown much worse.

If you’ve read my posts, you know that for the past 10 years or so I had effectively silenced my earworms by balancing my hormones (through the use of bio-identical hormones) and taking a supplement that reduces cortisol. But, as the story of our roadtrip reveals, the earworms are coming back, and they are disruptive at times.

Curiously, I’ve also been having issues with my hormones, specifically my estrogen patches, for the past year or more, since my doctor switched me to the generic patches. Whereas the original patches used to last 4 to 6 days, the generic patch wore off within 2 days, sometimes less. Last fall, the doctor approved my use of the brand-name patches again, but even those don’t last as long as they used to.

The hormone problems and the earworms’ return are almost certainly connected.

My current goal is to find and contact researchers who are already interested in this phenomenon. There are quite a few more studies and researchers now than there were some 10 years ago when I began my quest. Unfortunately, none of them seem to be looking at chemical causes. However, I am encouraged because several of the researchers seem to be serious about discovering the cause(s) of the earworms and treatments/techniques to get rid of them. Several papers mention that the authors are looking for testable hypotheses that might shed more light on this phenomenon. Well, I just happen to have one.

So I am about to contact as many researchers as I can find. If any of them agree to study the chemistry of earworms, I would like to connect them with those of you who have this condition…with your permission, of course.

Meanwhile, I wanted to get the word out to all of you and ask you to please send me your earworm stories, if you haven’t already.  If you wish to be anonymous, just let me know and I will pass along only your story, without your name or contact information.

You can contact me by email at hormonebook (at) yahoo (dot) com  Share whatever information you think is relevant.

Please answer the following specific questions if you can:

  1. When did the earworms start? How old were you and what were the circumstances in your life and health at the time they first started?
  2. What exposure have you had to brain-altering drugs (anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, anti-seizure meds) before or during the earworms? Did any drugs stop the earworms?
  3. What effect does stress or emotional excitement (good or bad) have on the earworms?
  4. How “loud” or disruptive are the earworms?
  5. What, if anything, affects the earworms, brings them on/makes them “louder” or makes them fade away? (Actions/”tricks,” foods, supplements, etc.)
  6. What sex are you?
  7. Do you take any hormones? If so specify.
  8. Are you thirsty a lot?
  9. Do you have diabetes?
  10. How long have you had the earworms?
  11. If they come and go, please describe the length of the episodes and describe any circumstances that seem associated with the earworms being on versus off.
  12. Can you control the earworms (turn them on/off)? If yes, please describe how.
  13. Would you be willing to communicate with researchers about your earworm experiences?
  14. Would you be willing to participate in lab studies (brain scans, blood/saliva tests, etc.) investigating earworms?

Thank you all for following my blog and for sharing your experiences. I will do whatever I can to find relief for us all!

As always, wishing you peace and quiet.

Pat

 

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Since my last post, I have suffered less from the auditory memory loops (AMLs) (or broken record syndrome) than from a creeping anxiety that had come to consume me on a daily basis. So when an AML sufferer recently contacted me, telling me not only about his stuck music issues but also about his anxiety disorder, I thought it might be time to share my latest adventures with all of you.

 Anxiety

For several months I had been waking up scared every morning and spending most days seeing threats in every little situation throughout the day. My crazy circular thinking made me hyper-critical of everything, including my partner, who is a sweet, wonderful man. Though I tried to keep much of this from him, the constant overthinking/overanalyzing of my crazybrain tested the patience of those dear friends whose ears I bent nearly to the breaking point.

I knew something was wrong with me but I couldn’t stop the crazy thinking or the anxiety. So I embarked on a therapy fenzy. Maybe there were issues I’d need to work through with my sweetheart at the end of this journey, but first I needed to filter out my own dysfunctions.

Therapy Frenzy

At one point I was seeing 3 different psychologists, plus a life coach friend who uses techniques like neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy…all in hopes of calming my brain and my anxiety. I told them all that I felt like a small dinghy in the ocean, jostling wildly with every little fish fart nearby. I wanted instead to be like a big cruise ship that remains stable, cutting through all but the roughest seas.

I got some surprising insights from my friend and some useful perspectives from the therapists. But slowly I let go of each because the results failed to give me the kind of relief I so desperately needed.

OCD Behavioral Techniques

In the process, I learned about some behavioral techniques that have been used successfully to control and reduce obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms. These techniques had been effective in not only managing the subjective experience for OCD sufferers, but they actually triggered measurable physical and chemical changes in the brain! So I read the book, Brain Lock, by Jeffrey Schwartz, and was working on retraining my brain.

Biofeedback

Still, it wasn’t working fast enough for me. So I continued with the last of the therapies: biofeedback. However, it was not the kind of real-time brainwave-based biofeedback I’d expected, and instead was focused on relaxation techniques I was already good at. So I dropped that as well and looked at my remaining options.

Was it Something [Not] in the Water?

Over the previous 9 months I had been drinking super-filtered water. I knew that some friends of ours who use the same filtration system added healthy minerals back into their water after filtration. The anxiety had been building during that same timeframe. So I wondered if my anxiety and crazybrain might be partly the result of my being deficient in critical trace minerals. The first one that came to mind was lithium.

Lithium, an Essential Trace Mineral

I happened to have some 5 mg lithium orotate pills on hand, and decided to try it. The typical dose is 10-20 mg a day, 1 to 2 pills in the morning and 1-2 at night. But I’m sensitive to most substances, so I took 1/4th pill Friday morning, then another 1/4th Friday night. Since I didn’t have any negative reactions, I took 1/2 pill Saturday morning. And by Saturday afternoon, I was feeling dramatically calmer.

Lithium Orotate to the Rescue!

After less than 36 hours on a teeny dose of lithium orotate, I finally felt like that cruise ship! It was like a miracle for me.

I have now been taking 1/2 pill (2.5 mg) twice a day for nearly two weeks and I feel great! I still worry appropriately about things like financial challenges and threats to my family’s wellbeing. But I no longer wake up every morning feeling scared. I no longer have a running circular dialogue in my head about what’s wrong with everything I encounter. I am no longer exaggerating threats, or imagining things to be upset or worried about.

And I am no longer haunted by stuck music. I occasionally notice a song memory playing in my head, but it is not bothersome or intrusive.

What You Need to Know About Lithium Orotate

So here’s what you need to know about natural lithium. But first, the disclaimer…

The information in this post is for educational and entertainment purposes only! No substance is completely safe for everyone. So please consult with a qualified healthcare professional before trying anything new.

Lithium orotate is found in most of the world’s ground  water, along with potassium, calcium, magnesium and various other trace minerals.  Several studies have shown that regions with the highest lithium content have the lowest violent crime and suicide rates. The following PubMed link takes you to a study of lithium in 27 Texas counties. From this page you can also access similar studies from around the world.

This is NOT Pharmaceutical Lithium

If the name lithium sounds familiar, it may be because you’ve heard that prescription lithium is used to treat patients with bi-polar (manic-depressive) disorder. However, the forms of lithium used as drugs are so poorly absorbed into the brain that patients have to take huge doses that are toxic to the rest of their bodies, just to get enough into the brain to calm the mood swings.

Do Your Homework and Consult a Health Professional

Natural lithium orotate, on the other hand, is far more bioavailable, and can be effective even in tiny doses, with few, if any side effects for many people. Still there are precautions or caveats you and your healthcare advisers should be aware of.

The following links take you to articles about the benefits of lithium orotate. 1. Psychology Today article. 2. Global Healing Center article. 3. Lithium video by John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. But do your own research as well.

The 5 mg lithium orotate I am using comes from Life Extension Foundation, which I have come to trust over the years.  I can’t speak for any other brands, but, again, do your research, use your best judgment, and follow the advice of a healthcare expert.

As always, wishing you peace and quiet.

– Pat

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Finally, Life Extension Foundation Magazine’s July 2013 issue is available online with its article about the use of the spice saffron for the treatment of many brain and mood dysfunctions as an alternative to drugs. (If the hyperlink above doesn’t work, you can find it at the path below.)

http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2013/jul2013_A-Safer-Alternative-for-Managing-Depression_01.htm

Let me just say first that I have absolutely NO idea whether saffron will work to quiet the stuck music/AMLs (auditory memory loops). But since the conventional drug treatments for the AMLs we experience have also been known to CAUSE the AMLs, and saffron seems to do good things without bad side effects, this natural solution might be worth trying for our affliction.

Here are a few key reasons that make me think saffron might be worth trying for AMLs:

1.  In human studies, saffron was as effective for mild to moderate depression as Prozac and Tofranil…without the side effects.

2.   In animal studies, saffron was effective in reducing anxiety and OCD behaviors and increasing total sleep time.

3.  In human studies, saffron decreased compulsive, between-meal snacking by 55%.

4.  In human studies, saffron proved as effective as Zoloft for improving mild to moderate Alzheimer’s symptoms without the bad side effects.

5. And by the way, saffron not only doesn’t have the sexual side effects of antidepressant drugs, it can reverse the sexual side effects and improve libido even in people who are still taking the antidepressant drugs.

So my logic is that if saffron works as well as drugs for depression, anxiety and OCD without side effects, perhaps it might calm down whatever is going on in our crazy brains that makes us play music over and over.

If nothing else, if some of us are taking those drugs…either because our doctors have thought the drugs might cure us, or because having this affliction is depressing…maybe we can get off those drugs or at least add saffron to offset the sexual side effects.

I don’t know about you, but for me, loss of sex drive is not not JUST about sex, it is about all forms of passion. If I can’t feel passion for sex, I also can’t feel it for music or books or movies or art or a beautiful sunset.  I’m a writer and without my passions I literally cannot create…I cannot feel.  So this is a big deal to me.  Since several of you with this affliction are musicians, I suspect your passions are similarly critical to who you are, not just what you do.

I have bought 2 bottles of saffron, which amounts to a 2-month supply. Most of the saffron studies showed results in 4 to 8 weeks, so I figured this would give it a fair test. However, I’m not  the best subject for the experiment, since I’ve quieted my AMLs by adjusting my hormones. And with the stupid vertigo still lingering just a bit, I’m not in the mood to go off my hormone regimen to let the AMLs come back right now.

So with all the caveats in the world including–This is for information only. Please consult your doctor before trying anything!!! —I will be interested to see if anyone out there who actively has the AMLs will try saffron and report back to us with your results.

If you do try it, be sure to take the dosages used in the studies. Try not to change anything else during the “study” period. And try to keep a daily log rating your symptoms on some kind of scale to show whether they change at all, in which direction, and how soon.  Then let us know what happened.

I’m not going to get my hopes up just yet, but my feeling is that nature probably offers  everything we need to be healthy.  Granted, not everything “natural” is good for us–nature makes plenty of poisons too. But if we can eat saffron in rice, it’s probably not going to hurt us as a supplement. Though even that rule should be tempered with the reminder that even the most benign things, consumed in excess, can harm or kill us.

So do your homework, check with all the experts you trust, and let us know if you decide to be a guinea pig.

Hope you are all having a safe,  happy and crazy-music-free Fourth of July.

-Pat

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This is to clear up any possible confusion about prednisone and AMLs that my previous posts may have created. Prednisone is NOT a potential solution to this affliction.

My previous posts were about my concerns with taking prednisone (because it is so closely related to cortisol) and that it might reawaken the music I’d worked so hard to get rid of.  And although I did have music stuck in my head after the first day’s dose, it went away and didn’t come back for the remaining 5 days I took the steroids. So my fears about prednisone seem to have been premature.

Meanwhile, there may be a safe new option to try coming soon. I am just waiting for the article to become available online and I will write about it here, probably within the next few weeks.

Stay tuned,

Pat

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Just a quick note to say that after experiencing a recurrence of music in my head after taking prednisone on day for my vertigo, the music went away and never returned.

At least it did not recur while I was taking the prednisone. I continued taking the prednisone as a taper for a total of 6 days (3 pills a day for days 1 through 4, then 2 pills the 5th day and 1 pill the 6th day).

However, about a week later I woke up in the middle of the night with the worse spinning sensation I’ve had. I must have rolled over too fast or in the wrong way in my sleep. But the spinning scared me, made me wonder if this would ever go away, would I ever be normal and functional again. And I presume my panic pumped surges of cortisol into my system and…sure enough…I started hearing the music again.

So the hypothesis still holds for cortisol’s role in the AMLs/broken record/stuck music phenomenon. But, for my one experience at least, it looks like prednisone, the synthetic cousin to cortisol, does not have the same effect.

In fact, for the remaining 5 days I was taking the prednisone and for 2 days afterwards, I felt fabulous. Still had the dizziness, but otherwise felt great

I wouldn’t want any of you to avoid taking prednisone, if you needed it, for fear it would increase the music in your head. But if you do take it and if it affects your AMLs (positively or negatively), please let us know.

Wishing you peace and quiet.

Pat

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I’ve been dealing with a vertigo episode for going on a month now and in trying prednisone (aka, “steroids”) for a couple of days, I’ve started getting the auditory memory loops/AMLs (aka, stuck music, broken record syndrome, ear worms, whatever you want to call it) again.

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who know there is some connection between the AMLs and cortisol (and stress that releases cortisol). Prednisone is merely a synthetic drug that mimics some of the properties of cortisol.

In particular, it is used to reduce inflammation. In my case, I’m trying to reduce the inflammation in my head and various ear mechanisms that causes a buildup of fluid and then triggers the vertigo, or dizziness and spinning sensation.

So it only seems logical that this synthetic cousin of cortisol might also bring back the stuck music.

Well I started taking the prednisone yesterday morning, and by bedtime, I was too energized to sleep. When I did finally get to sleep, I had manic, OCD-kinds of repetitive dreams, processing the same form over and over. Then I woke around 3:00 am and had two songs stuck in my head. This hasn’t happened in a very long time, at least not since I got my hormones under control. But I was finally able to get to sleep and had no music in my head this morning.

I will be curious to see if I have a similar experience of the music coming back tonight, though it should start earlier since I took my dose of prednisone 4 hours earlier today.

As with so many things, I would think that this clue (prednisone, a cortisol-like substance bringing on the AMLs again) would help a dedicated researcher figure out at least the hormonal part of the equation. If only we could find such a rare creature. Unicorns seem more plentiful.

The last time I had a vertigo episode, coincidentally I was also having severe issues with the AMLs. However, that time I had been taking Wellbutrin (bupropion) an antidepressant, and I think that was the trigger for the AMLs.

Still this is an orphan syndrome: nobody cares enough to research it. I’ve collected a list of 50 some sufferers who have found my blog and who desperately need help but are finding none. We have clues out the wazoo (I’m pretty sure it’s connected to the thighbone), but we have no one to tell our stories to. No one to give our clues to. No one who will take our data, formulate a hypothesis, perform some tests, and come up with a more informed and meaningful course of treatment than just giving shrugs or throwing brain altering drugs at us hoping they don’t make it worse.

I have thought about writing a book about this . Maybe a book would get somebody’s attention. But: (a) I don’t yet have the “happy ending” I’d like to have for this story, and (b) I’m a published author, and know that a great many books go unnoticed without a lot of publicity or the endorsement of celebrities.

So I keep watching and listening for any possible connections I might find to researchers who have: (a) expertise in the brain and biochemistry, (b) access to both brain imaging equipment and lab tests, and (c) the desire to help us.

And if you know of anyone who fits that description (or even anyone who might know someone), please let me know. I will share everything I know from my own experiences and those of other sufferers. I will subject myself to tests, since I can turn the AMLs on and off.

We really have to get smarter about this. And to do so we need to find somebody who is willing and able to help us.

Meanwhile, here’s wishing you all blissful peace and quiet.

Pat

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