Music evoked autobiographical memory after severe acquired brain injury: Preliminary findings from a case series

A. Baird*, S. Samson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    36 Citations (Scopus)


    Music evoked autobiographical memories (MEAMs) have been characterised in the healthy population, but not, to date, in patients with acquired brain injury (ABI). Our aim was to investigate music compared with verbal evoked autobiographical memories. Five patients with severe ABI and matched controls completed the experimental music (MEAM) task (a written questionnaire) while listening to 50 "Number 1 Songs of the Year" (from 1960 to 2010). Patients also completed the Autobiographical Memory Interview (AMI) and a standard neuropsychological assessment. With the exception of Case 5, who reported no MEAMs and no autobiographical incidents on the AMI and who also had impaired pitch perception, the range of frequency and type of MEAMs in patients was broadly in keeping with their matched controls. The relative preservation of MEAMs in four cases was particularly noteworthy given their impaired verbal and/or visual anterograde memory, and in three cases, autobiographical memory impairment. The majority of MEAMs in both cases and matched controls were of a person/people or a period of life. In three patients music was more efficient at evoking autobiographical memories than the AMI verbal prompts. This is the first study of MEAMs after ABI. The findings suggest that music is an effective stimulus for eliciting autobiographical memories, and may be beneficial in the rehabilitation of autobiographical amnesia, but only in patients without a fundamental deficit in autobiographical recall memory and intact pitch perception.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)125-143
    Number of pages19
    JournalNeuropsychological Rehabilitation
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2014


    • Acquired brain injury
    • Autobiographical memory
    • Memory rehabilitation
    • Music
    • Retrograde amnesia


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