Memory for music in Alzheimer's disease

Unforgettable?

Amee Baird, Séverine Samson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

87 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The notion that memory for music can be preserved in patients with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) has been raised by a number of case studies. In this paper, we review the current research examining musical memory in patients with AD. In keeping with models of memory described in the non-musical domain, we propose that various forms of musical memory exist, and may be differentially impaired in AD, reflecting the pattern of neuropathological changes associated with the condition. Our synthesis of this literature reveals a dissociation between explicit and implicit musical memory functions. Implicit, specifically procedural musical memory, or the ability to play a musical instrument, can be spared in musicians with AD. In contrast, explicit musical memory, or the recognition of familiar or unfamiliar melodies, is typically impaired. Thus, the notion that music is unforgettable in AD is not wholly supported. Rather, it appears that the ability to play a musical instrument may be unforgettable in some musicians with AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-101
Number of pages17
JournalNeuropsychology Review
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes

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Keywords

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Dementia
  • Memory
  • Music

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