For Quick Alerts
For Daily Alerts

Did You Know That It Only Takes You 300 Milliseconds To Recognise Your Favourite Song?

Ever heard one of your old favourite tunes and couldn't remember it at the moment - but comes to you within a jiffy - to be accurate, within 300 milliseconds or 0.005 minutes. Well, that's because - its the way our brain functions.

According to a recent study conducted by the researchers at UCL Ear Institute asserted that the minimum required time for the human brain to recognise a familiar song is as little as 100 milliseconds. That is, within a time span of 100 milliseconds to 300 milliseconds, your brain can bring forth even the deep etched tunes [1] .

The Researchers Wanted To Test The Brain's Connection To Familiar Tunes

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports was initially defined with a group of researches who asserted the idea of assimilating the time and speed the human brain took in recognising and responding to a familiar piece of music.

The study was also conducted to understand the functioning of the temporal profile in the process of aiding the brain in recognising the music. The study consisted of a group of 10 respondents - five men and five women who had each provided five songs, which were very familiar to them.

The researchers then went on to match the respective songs to a tune, which had the similar tempo, melody, harmony, vocals and instrumentation - but a song that was unfamiliar to the respondent [2] . They were required to listen to the unfamiliar song with the familiar tune for 400 seconds, in total. Consequently, the respondents were required to listen to both unfamiliar and familiar songs.

Using electroencephalography (EEG) imaging which recorded the electrical activity in the brain and also pupillometry - a technique that measures pupil diameter (which help understand the measure of arousal) [3] .

The Brain Clocked The Songs In Between 100-300 Milliseconds

On carrying out the song test on the respondents, the researchers reached the definite conclusion that the participants' brains recognised the songs they knew between 100 milliseconds and 300 milliseconds. Which is as the same amount of time one requires to blink.

The researchers gathered the results by examining the rapid pupil dilation which is asserted to be linked with increased arousal associated with the familiar sound, followed by cortical activation related to memory retrieval [4] .

The Study Hopes To Improve Music-based Therapy

The results have aided the researchers in coming up with the possibility of using music-based therapy for the treatment of patients with conditions like dementia. Music-based therapy is the use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship [5] .

According to the research head Professor Maria Chait, "Our results demonstrate that recognition of familiar music happens remarkably quickly." She continued, "These findings point to very fast temporal circuitry and are consistent with the deep hold that highly familiar pieces of music have on our memory and beyond basic science, understanding how the brain recognises familiar tunes is useful for various music-based therapeutic interventions" [6] .

With the growing medical interest in using music to help treat individuals suffering from dementia, the study has indeed aided in boosting more studies as the music seems to be well preserved despite an otherwise systemic failure of memory systems in people.

More Studies To Be Done...

Even though the study has developed the result that musical memory can actively improve recollection in people suffering from memory loss conditions like dementia, researchers point out that extensive explorations in large scale have to be done to make the findings solid-proof.

Consequently, listening to familiar music or songs have been proven to improve the symptoms of depression and behavioural problems in patients[7] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Jagiello, R., Pomper, U., Yoneya, M., Zhao, S., & Chait, M. (2018). Rapid Brain Responses to Familiar vs. Unfamiliar Music-an EEG and Pupillometry study. BioRxiv, 466359.
  2. [2] Gander, K. (2019, October 31). Your Brain Can Recognize a Song in Just 100 Milliseconds. Retrieved from
  3. [3] McLean, M. (2019, October 31). It only takes 300 milliseconds to recognise our favourite song, study shows. Retrieved from
  4. [4] Vink, A. C., Bruinsma, M. S., & Scholten, R. J. (2003). Music therapy for people with dementia. Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (4).
  5. [5] Nagy, K., Hill, M., Kroustos, K. R., & Sobota, K. F. (2019). Music Therapy: A Novel Student Pharmacy Outreach to Manage Symptoms of Alzheimer's Dementia. The Senior care pharmacist, 34(9), 600-603.
  6. [6] Baird, A., Garrido, S., & Tamplin, J. (Eds.). (2019). Music and Dementia: From Cognition to Therapy. Oxford University Press.
  7. [7] King, J. B., Jones, K. G., Goldberg, E., Rollins, M., MacNamee, K., Moffit, C., ... & Breitenbach, K. R. (2019). Increased Functional Connectivity After Listening to Favored Music in Adults With Alzheimer Dementia. The journal of prevention of Alzheimer's disease, 6(1), 56-62.
    Story first published: Thursday, October 31, 2019, 19:00 [IST]
    We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. This includes cookies from third party social media websites and ad networks. Such third party cookies may track your use on Boldsky sites for better rendering. Our partners use cookies to ensure we show you advertising that is relevant to you. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on Boldsky website. However, you can change your cookie settings at any time. Learn more