Your brain on music: Photo courtesy of Brandon Ally. Now the results of a recent BU study suggest that music may also help people with dementia retain new information, a finding with promising implications for the 5.
For example, a simple ditty might help patients remember which medications to take when, says Ally, whose research focuses mainly on how memory deteriorates in healthy aging as well as in elderly people with dementia. After seeing and hearing four-line selections from the 80 test lyrics, the subjects were asked if they recognized the lyrics. Or it may be that music stimulates people and helps them pay more attention, he says, adding that even with healthy older adults, lack of focus plays a role in memory impairment.
Whatever the mechanism, the therapeutic value of music is accepted by the medical establishment, and some forms of music therapy are covered by health insurance. Ally hopes to repeat the study with a larger sample size, and further investigate why music seemed to have no effect on recognition of test information by healthy adults.
Ally and Simmons-Stern plan follow-up studies to refine the results, comparing rhyming lyrics with nonrhyming lyrics and comparing the effectiveness of different types of melodies. Susan Seligson can be reached at sueselig bu.
Every thing that we can do to help and try better results as a caregivers is wonderful. Very encouraging and inspiring reaserch. She asked me to sing the song my wife and I used to sing together. I started singing it. After a minue she started humming it and saying words some which I myself had forgotte.
To determine where other kinds of musical memory are stored in the brain, however, a distinction needs to be made between an episodic and a semantic musical memory system. Episodic memory for musical information is defined by Platel and colleagues [ 5 ] as "the capacity to recognize a musical excerpt whether familiar or not for which the spatiotemporal context surrounding its former encounter i. Semantic memory allows us to identify familiar songs or melodies by naming the tune or by humming or whistling the subsequent notes of a melody.
It is thought that musical semantic memory may represent a musical lexicon, which is different from a verbal lexicon, even though there are certainly strong links between them see above. On the basis of a high-resolution positron emission tomography study, Platel and colleagues [ 5 ] delineated different brain networks involved in processing semantic and episodic memory. For episodic musical memory they found increases in cerebral blood flow bilaterally in the middle and superior frontal gyrus region with a left-sided preponderance and the precuneus, whereas for semantic musical memory there was a blood flow increase bilaterally in the medial and the orbitofrontal cortex, the left angular gyrus, and the left anterior part of the middle temporal cortex.
From these findings one can conclude that these two different musical memory systems have a different neural representation. It is interesting to note that these brain areas partly overlap with verbal semantic and episodic memory systems. Another recent study [ 22 ] examined the memories and emotions that are often evoked when hearing musical pieces from one's past.
In this experiment, subjects were presented with a large set of short musical excerpts not longer than 30 seconds per excerpt of past popular songs. In addition, most of the songs also evoked various strong emotions, which were mainly positive ones such as nostalgia. These results are consistent with the broader literature reviewed in [ 23 ] in which enhanced recall is observed for both positively valenced intrinsically pleasant and arousing stimulating events.
Thus, positive emotions and high arousal levels that are associated with specific events act as a memory enhancer for these particular events.
In the context of associative memory models, this memory-enhancing effect of emotions and arousal can be explained as a strengthening of the associations between the memories due to strong emotions and to arousal. Until recently however, no study has explicitly examined whether emotional valence or arousal are correlated with musical memory.
In a recent paper published in BMC Neuroscience , Eschrich and colleagues [ 6 ] investigate whether musical pieces that induce high arousal and very positive valence are remembered better by non-musicians than unarousing and emotionally neutral musical pieces. To examine these questions the authors designed a behavioral memory experiment composed of two sessions. In the first session the encoding phase the subjects were exposed to 40 musical pieces, each lasting 20—30 seconds.
One week later, in the recognition phase, participants listened to the 40 old musical excerpts randomly interspersed with 40 new excerpts and were asked to make a decision about whether each one was old or new, and to indicate the arousal level and emotional valence of the pieces. The musical stimuli were selected from a larger data pool by musically trained raters and comprised symphonic film music by various composers. Arousal ratings were not predictive for recognition performance, meaning that only emotional valence is related to musical memory [ 6 ].
A further part of this experiment [ 16 ] was designed to assess whether different psychological conditions present during the encoding phase might have an influence on musical memory performance. For this, the authors divided the subject sample into two groups: The two groups did not differ in their recognition scores.
It is interesting that the time-estimation group, despite not concentrating on the emotions during the first encoding session, showed the same recognition performance as the emotion group.
This shows that emotion is automatically evoked by the musical pieces and inevitably influences recognition, even when it is not focused on. In summary, the study by Eschrich and colleagues [ 6 ] is consistent with the rest of the literature on emotion as a memory enhancer. The novel aspect of this study, however, is the finding that musical memory is strongly related to the rated attractiveness and not to the experienced arousal of the musical piece.
Thus, emotion enhances not only memories for verbal or pictorial material, as summarized by Buchanan [ 23 ], but also for musical pieces. This study [ 6 ] also provides additional support for a tremendous role of music in building our autobiographical memories. Emotional music we have heard at specific periods of our life is strongly linked to our autobiographical memory and thus is closely involved in forming our view about our own self. In this respect it is interesting to note that listening to music is not only accompanied by blood flow increases in brain areas known to be involved in generating and controlling emotions [ 12 , 13 ], but it is also accompanied by a general increase and change of brain activation within a distributed network comprising many brain areas and the peripheral nervous system [ 11 , 24 - 27 ].
Thus, listening to music even when we listen passively activates many psychological functions emotion, memory, attention, imagery and so on located in a distributed, overlapping brain network.
If music has such a strong influence on emotions and our cognitive system, this raises the question of whether the memory-enhancing effect of emotional music can be used to enhance cognitive performance in general and in clinical settings.
The results of this study revealed that recovery of verbal memory and focused attention improved significantly in the group of patients who listened to their favorite music on a daily basis compared with the patients who listened to audio books or received no listening material control group. Besides the improvement in cognitive functions, there was also a substantial mood improvement in the patients who listened to music they were less depressed and less confused compared with the control group.
These studies and especially the study by Eschrich and colleagues [ 6 ] support the tremendous influence of music on our emotional and cognitive system. Music automatically awakes us, arouses us and engenders specific emotions in us, which in turn modulates and controls many cognitive functions.
National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List J Biol v. Published online Aug 8. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Because emotions enhance memory processes and music evokes strong emotions, music could be involved in forming memories, either about pieces of music or about episodes and information associated with particular music. Music and memory Musical sounds, like all auditory signals, unfold over time. Open in a separate window.
Music and memories of associated events Autobiographical information associated with musical melodies is evoked when we hear relevant music or when we are engaged in conversation about music or episodes and events in our life in which music has been important. Emotion, music and memory Another recent study [ 22 ] examined the memories and emotions that are often evoked when hearing musical pieces from one's past.
Effects of timbre and tempo change on memory for music. Q J Exp Psychol Colchester Absolute memory for musical pitch: Name or hum that tune: Functional neuroimaging of semantic and episodic musical memory.
Ann NY Acad Sci. Semantic and episodic memory of music are subserved by distinct neural networks. Suppression effects on musical and verbal memory.
Music training improves verbal memory. Music training improves verbal but not visual memory: Broca's area supports enhanced visuospatial cognition in orchestral musicians. From emotion perception to emotion experience: The emotional power of music: Intensely pleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated in reward and emotion.
Emotional responses to pleasant and unpleasant music correlate with activity in paralimbic brain regions. Effects of prior exposure on music liking and recognition in patients with temporal lobe lesions. Improvement-related functional plasticity following pitch memory training.
Testing for causality with transcranial direct current stimulation: Music, language and meaning:
Current Research An April study reports that “objective evidence from brain imaging shows personally meaningful music is an alternative route for communicating with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease.”.
The goal of this Music & Memory research project is to extend the existing research to determine the impact on the staff of nursing homes and the overall work environment of the memory care unit in nursing homes from participation in a Music & Memory project.
Our ongoing research and evaluation of Music & Memory’s work in care organizations shows consistent results: Participants are happier and more social. Relationships among staff, participants and family deepen. The link between music and memory is so strong that it can help you learn a foreign language. Research by Ludke et al. () found that people trying to learn Hungarian, a notoriously difficult language, performed much better if they sang the Hungarian phrases rather than just saying them.
They signaled researchers when a certain second music sample triggered any autobiographical memory, as opposed to just being a familiar or unfamiliar song. "This is the first study using music to look at [the neural correlates of] autobiographical memory," Janata told LiveScience. Music Boosts Memory in Alzheimer’s Song may be key to remembering daily meds. By Susan Seligson share it! 4. Ally’s summer research assistant, the BU team had a group of healthy elderly people and a group with Alzheimer’s view a series of simple song lyrics on a computer screen, first with the words being sung by a young.