The nostalgic power of music


The nostalgic power of music - Credit: Getty Images

Have you ever listened to a song that has transported you right back to your younger years?

I’m only in my 20s, but I still get the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia when a song from my teenage years comes on. In my head, I’m 14 again and I relive the moments of when I first heard that song, just like it was yesterday.

Neuroimaging shows that songs and music evoke nostalgic feelings and stimulate many areas of the brain.

Studies into the neural response to music and nostalgia also show that hearing songs over and over again - especially during memorable times or during the most formative years of our lives - can make songs stick, sometimes forever.

The ‘Reminiscence Bump,’ as the phenomenon is called, helps to bring those vivid memories flooding back, even years into adult life.

We make the strongest musical connections when the records, radio plays, Spotify streams or CD sessions become entwined with major or memorable life events, made in our teenage and young adult years.

Because of this, researchers suggest that memories are central to our sense of identity.

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Our personalities and outlook on life are inextricably linked with the music that we listened to when we were young.

We also place value on the music we listen to based on when we listened to it in our lives.

Scientifically, listening to music illuminates the brain’s visual cortex and our brains search for the association in memories and images.

Music can provoke both general feelings such as how it felt to be a teenager, or more specific times in life, such as the feeling of driving on a road trip or your first kiss.

So with this in mind, you don’t need to worry the next time Bananarama pops into your head and fond memories of your younger years start flooding in.

It’s probably not you or your taste in music, it’s just that the nostalgic power of music connects us with our past moments and helps to shape who we are as human beings.