The Washington PostThe Washington Post

Why music causes memories to flood back

By Marlene Cimons

26 Feb 2023 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

We've all experienced it. That moment when a song transports you through time, back to a memory you forgot you even had. The Post explains how our brains encode music and why it has such an effect.

When Laura Nye Falsone's first child was born in 1996, the Wallflowers album "Bringing Down the Horse" was a big hit. "All I have to hear are the first notes from 'One Headlight,' and I am back to dancing . . . with my brand-new baby boy in my arms," she says. "It fills my heart with joy every time"

When Carol Howard's early-onset Alzheimer's worsened, often she couldn't recognize her husband. She once introduced him as her father. But if she heard a 1960s Simon & Garfunkel song playing, Howard, a marine biologist who died in 2019, could sing every word "effortlessly," her husband says.

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