A nonmusician with severe Alzheimer’s dementia learns a new song

Amee Baird*, Heidi Umbach, William Forde Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The hallmark symptom of Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD) is impaired memory, but memory for familiar music can be preserved. We explored whether a non-musician with severe AD could learn a new song. A 91 year old woman (NC) with severe AD was taught an unfamiliar song. We assessed her delayed song recall (24 hours and 2 weeks), music cognition, two word recall (presented within a familiar song lyric, a famous proverb, or as a word stem completion task), and lyrics and proverb completion. NC’s music cognition (pitch and rhythm perception, recognition of familiar music, completion of lyrics) was relatively preserved. She recalled 0/2 words presented in song lyrics or proverbs, but 2/2 word stems, suggesting intact implicit memory function. She could sing along to the newly learnt song on immediate and delayed recall (24 hours and 2 weeks later), and with intermittent prompting could sing it alone. This is the first detailed study of preserved ability to learn a new song in a non-musician with severe AD, and contributes to observations of relatively preserved musical abilities in people with dementia.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)36-40
    Number of pages5
    JournalNeurocase
    Volume23
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017

    Keywords

    • Alzheimer’s Dementia
    • memory
    • Music
    • singing

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