Brain takes just 100 to 300 milliseconds to recognise familiar music
1 November 2019
New research from the Chait lab shows that the human brain can recognise a familiar song within 100 to 300 milliseconds, highlighting the deep hold favourite tunes have on our memory.
Anecdotally the ability to recall popular songs is exemplified in game shows such as ‘Name That Tune’, where contestants can often identify a piece of music in just a few seconds.
For this study, published in Scientific Reports, researchers at the UCL Ear Institute wanted to find out exactly how fast the brain responded to familiar music, as well as the temporal profile of processes in the brain which allow for this.
The study found the human brain recognised ‘familiar’ tunes from 100 milliseconds (0.1 of a second) of sound onset, with the average recognition time between 100ms and 300ms. This was first revealed by rapid pupil dilation, likely linked to increased arousal associated with the familiar sound, followed by cortical activation related to memory retrieval.