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Posts Tagged ‘songs stuck in your head’

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@yahoo.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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Here I am, still fighting the ebb and flow of this recent recurrence of the stuck music (auditory memory loops/AMLs). (I now suspect I have gotten a bad box of estrogen patches, and will see if this resolves when I start on the new box.) Meanwhile, I decided to try searching OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) sites for new perspectives.

Do I really have OCD?

The first thing I looked at was a self test for OCD.  I failed miserably (or should I say “happily”). Classic OCD is associated with repetitive rituals (like locking the door the “right” number of times, or incessant hand washing) and a lot of dark thoughts and fears. The TV character Adrian Monk had OCD (among other issues). His list of fears/phobias began with “Germs, needles, milk, death….”  Yes, in that order.

I apparently don’t have OCD in the sense these tests define it. I have no rituals, no dark thoughts, and no phobias/fears other than: (a) spiders (since childhood), (b) 4-leaf clovers (long story), and, most important, (c) the fear of having songs stuck in my head again and not being able to enjoy…or even truly live life.

OCD – Melanie’s Article

Despite my apparent lack of OCD symptoms,  I searched for OCD and hormones and came up with a fabulous article from Melanie Gladney’s HubPage.  http://melaniegladney.hubpages.com/hub/OCD-Glucose-Metabolism-and-Food-Allergies This focuses on classical OCD, but offers suggestions that may work for some of us as well. It is certainly worth a shot.

OCD and Hormones

In this article, she discusses the same hormonal influences I’ve identified, but she adds important dimensions to the discussion, including information about key brain chemicals that the sex hormones trigger.

She emphasizes the role of progesterone in calming anxieties. Just keep in mind that, for me at least, there is a very narrow sweet spot for progesterone levels: if I get too much (relative to estrogen), it actually brings on the stuck music.  But as we know, we all have different body chemistries and reactions, so keep progesterone in your toolbox and use it carefully, like everything else.

OCD and Blood Sugar, Insulin Resistance and Cortisol 

More important, Melanie covers in great detail the role of blood sugar/metabolism and  food allergies as they may relate to OCD. Her suggestions about diet require more self discipline than I am easily capable of, but they have worked for her OCD, so please check them out and see if her suggestions might work for you.

Remember that high cortisol can not only trigger or exacerbate the AMLs, it can induce insulin resistance (which Melanie talks about in easy-to-understand detail). So maybe it’s not the cortisol directly that affects our AMLs after all, but the insulin/metabolic conditions that result from that cortisol overload. Maybe regulating blood sugar and/or insulin is, in fact, the answer…or at least part of it.

Is it that simple? Probably not.

From a logical standpoint, it seems that if blood sugar, food allergies, and insulin resistance were truly at the root of this (in my case, at least), then I should not have been able to get rid of the AMLs when I implemented my current hormone regimen, because I did not change my diet. The only things I changed were: (1) I took cortisol suppressing supplements, and (2) I created a mini hormone cycle with a surge of estrogen 24 hours before I took my progesterone.

This same kind of reasoning told me that it’s not just cortisol that triggers the AMLs, because I have been way more stressed in my younger life (i.e., had tons of adrenalin and cortisol surging through my body) and yet I did not get songs stuck in my head.  This only started when my sex hormones went south at menopause…and it only went away again when I mimicked a youthful hormone cycle.

Then again, the most obvious difference between the identical twin boys who shared most everything except the AMLs was that the one who had the AMLs turned out to have a then-undiagnosed metabolic disorder involving insulin resistance. The mom obtained the diagnosis after reading about the cortisol/metabolic connection to AMLs here and taking her son in for relevant tests. So, clearly the AMLs and metabolic dysfunction are closely linked.

Visit Melanie

The bottom line is that Melanie and I seem to be running down the same rabbit hole, chasing the same two suspects–sex hormone imbalances and dysfunctional metabolic/adrenal processes–from slightly different perspectives. So I encourage you to check out her hub. (You can read the articles but may have to join HubPages.com to comment.) And write to her if you think she can help. She seems to be very generous in responding.

And if any of you try her suggestions, please keep us posted on the results, whether positive, negative or neutral.

Wishing you a blissfully quiet day.

Pat

BTW, Last night I attended a lecture by a neuroscientist, and he has promised to put me in touch with someone he thinks might be able to help us or at least can point us to someone else who might. Cross your fingers…

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I guess there’s a price to pay for getting too cocky. I’ve mentioned several times that I seem to be the only one among us who can turn the AMLs (auditory memory loops) on and off. Well, I suppose to remind me of the horrors all of you are still suffering, I recently had a relapse and had the opportunity to refresh my memory…over and over and over and… well you know.

This relapse happened in the wake of conditions that may have directly or indirectly contributed to the problem.

1.  I had just finally recovered from a 2-month vertigo episode, the worse I’ve ever had. This condition might not have triggered the AMLs, but it certainly stressed me out, pumping cortisol into my system for two months.

2.  During the vertigo episode I took Valium for a couple of days. (It and other drugs like it can stabilize the inner ear’s balance centers.) But when I realized it was making me nauseated, I quit. Toward the end of the episode I took Xanax (related to Valium) every night to help suppress the spinning in my sleep. I worried about taking these drugs because so many of us only started the AMLs after taking SSRIs and other brain drugs.

3. In the last 2 weeks of the vertigo I had a short-fuse video project. Not only was I stressed (producing cortisol), but I was listening to the same 3 short songs over and over again for a week as we edited the video together.

4. I had cut back on the phosphatidyl serine (PS) that reduces cortisol and provides healthy fats to the brain.

Having heard your stories and thought more about the OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) connection, I paid closer attention to what I was feeling when the AMLs came back this time.

  • I was physically antsy, a feeling I know I get when either my potassium is low or when my hormones are messed up.
  • I felt as if there was an “openness” or a gaping hole in the middle of my brain, or that there was a thinness of the wall between that open part in the center of my brain and everything else.
  • That hole was like an open sore that was exposed to anything in my environment that might “infect” it and get stuck there.  I felt totally vulnerable to falling into other forms of OCD, not just the music. (Some of you have progressed into classic OCD.)
  • I also noticed that I was waking up with the crazy repetitive dreams (making a list, recalling names) and/or the music, all happening around 3 am…the classic, low estrogen wake-up time. I also had other low E symptoms, like heatwaves, itchy-crawly scalp and ears, and stupid brain.
  • I had trouble going out to restaurants and places that played music. I realized that my awareness of music wasn’t just me being cautious about music around me. No, the music literally seemed to attach itself to me more aggressively.  I was having lunch with a friend and had to step outside when a certain obnoxious song came on. When I got back, he said he hadn’t even noticed the music.  He said “You’ve got to do something about your hearing.” “Like what” I asked. “Like…go deaf,” he said.  It made me laugh. But the point is that his brain was able to tune it out, as mine normally would. Instead, for me it seemed as if not only was my brain open but it was aggressively seeking out and sucking the music in. And, all jokes aside, my going deaf would not have stopped the AMLs because this is not about “hearing;” it’s about replaying things stored in the auditory memory…even things we’ve never heard with our ears.

So I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that I finally suspected my estrogen patches weren’t working and I hoped and prayed this was also why the AMLs had come back with a vengeance. I have had problems with defective patches and/or possible permeability issues with the area of skin where I stuck my patches. So I put more patches on. And for a couple of days, the AMLs would go away.

I have finally ended that screwed-up hormone cycle and have started over with new patches in a new spot and have had no further problems with the AMLs.

HormonePathways12

Now, it would be easy to think you just need more estrogen and the AMLs will go away. But it’s not that simple.

Estrogen (at least in theory) merely creates receptors so the progesterone (P) in your system can break down into the sex hormones instead of adrenal hormones like cortisol.

But what about men with AMLs? Are they low in E relative to their P? We have no data to tell us one way or the other.

However, one new friend of the blog, a 20-year-old male, has just had a ton of lab tests done recently (including sex hormones and cortisol) and promises to send me a copy of the results. I may be able to spot nuances in the ratios or levels that doctors aren’t typically looking for.

Another new friend of the blog is a pregnant woman who began having the AMLs in her 6th month.

Both of their stories present very strong evidence of hormonal components associated with the AML/OCD symptoms. His initial labs, for example, say he’s got normal levels of a key hormone, but other symptoms tell me he is severely low. I hope our pregnant friend can also send lab results so I can see if perhaps her hormone ratios might be off, with too little E relative to the amount of P being made by the placenta.

At any rate, I am back to normal for now, having relived the terror of wondering whether I’d ever get that madness out of my head and be normal again. And my empathy has been renewed for all of you who are still suffering.

Curiously, I noticed a song in my head yesterday. But this felt different. It felt as if it was in the front of my head, instead of in that gaping, sucking hole in the center. (In fact I don’t feel that hole is there at all.) The song did not feel sticky or disruptive. It didn’t yell. It was just a small, well-behaved, pleasant memory floating around harmlessly in the stream of lots of other quiet thoughts.

I wish this same state of tranquility for all of you.

Pat

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As those who follow this blog know, I have found a combination of solutions that has kept the music out of my head for most of the past 2+ years now.

But I didn’t really know which parts were necessary, so I tried taking one part out: the phosphatidyl serine (PS). I didn’t stop it completely, but reduced my daily dose from 300 mg to 150 mg.  It seemed to be fine, as I’d been on this reduced dose for about a month and had had no problems.

However, I was only cautiously optimistic because PS takes a long time to build up in your brain, and presumably would take an equally long time to deplete.

In the meantime, I took on a rather manic project to produce a video in just a few days to support a proposal for one of my clients.  A few days stretched into a week when they got an extension and asked us to add a couple of animations to the video. And with the video goes music, three short pieces. And so for a week of sometimes 12+ hour days, I sat with my video editor making cut after cut, tweak after tweak…all with the music bits playing along with the images onscreen, sometimes even editing the music to make it fit the visuals.

So not only was I pumping out tons of cortisol to stay on my toes and try to figure out what key concepts from two 100-page proposals needed to be conveyed  in this brief 6 minute piece, but I was drumming the same 6 minutes of music into my head over and over in that high cortisol state.

Granted, that alone should have earned me this current soundtrack. But I fear that cutting back the PS may have been really bad timing. We finished the video last Friday, but the music didn’t stick right away. It has been slowly creeping in a little more each day, mostly in the morning then fading out… until today, when  it  has really become bothersome, intruding into my thoughts. It is now 3:00 in the afternoon and the music is finally calming down now. Then again, I took 200 mg of PS at 10 am. I don’t think the PS can possibly work that fast, but it may be a factor, for what it’s worth.

So just in case cutting back on the PS has played any part in this recent recurrence of the AMLs, I’ve decided to go back to 300 mg of PS daily until I am far enough away from a music-loop-inducing situation that I can try weaning off the PS again and see what happens.

I’ll keep you posted on this ongoing science experiment in my brain.

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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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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