An earworm, sometimes known as a brainworm, sticky music, stuck song syndrome, or Involuntary Musical Imagery (IMI) is a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person's mind after it is no longer playing. Phrases used to describe an earworm include "musical imagery repetition", "involuntary musical imagery", "cognitive itch" and "stuck song syndrome".
The word earworm is a calque from the German Ohrwurm, which has had this sense since the mid-20th century. The earliest known English usage is in Desmond Bagley's 1978 novel Flyaway, where the author points out the German origin of his coinage.
Researchers who have studied and written about the phenomenon include Theodor Reik, Sean Bennett, Oliver Sacks, Daniel Levitin, James Kellaris, Philip Beaman, Vicky Williamson, and, in a more theoretical perspective, Peter Szendy. The phenomenon should not be confused with palinacousis, a rare medical condition caused by damage to the temporal lobe of the brain that results in auditory hallucinations.