Patients with Alzheimer’s disease preserve musical memory
Scientists of the University of Amsterdam reported that patients suffering from the Alzheimer’s disease preserve musical memory for an extended period of time compared to other types of memory.
The Alzheimer’s disease is the disease that mostly affects elderly people (of age over 65), and features loss of short-term memory. Along with its development, the long-term memory is affected, too.
The authors of the study, which has been published in the Brain periodical, suggested why the function of areas responsible for the perception of music, became affected later than the work of other regions of the brain. The study was conducted under the group of scientists led by Jörn-Henrik Jacobsen. This study was carried out based on Mr. Jacobsen’s personal observation: in spite of the Alzheimer’s disease, his mother-in-law continued singing successfully in the church choir.
The first stage of the study was to find some areas of the brain responsible for long-term musical memory. In order to do this, researchers asked 32 volunteers to listen to some music. The participants of the study heard some of the songs for the first time, other songs they’ve heard an hour before the start of the study, and the rest of music was well known to them. While listening to all the songs of the study the researchers conducted magnetic resonance testing in order to image the participants’ brain functioning – the researchers recorded cerebral activity in different areas of the brain while the participants were listening to different sorts of the music. It turned out that the cingulate cortex area and the anterior part of the supplementary motor cortex play the decisive role in the long-term musical memory, as their activity was the most dynamic when the songs that were well known to the patients sounded.
In the next stage of the research the scientists analyzed the data of a three biological markers of the Alzheimer’s disease in the respective areas of brain of 20 patients suffering from dementia. The authors observed the smallest degree of atrophy of the brain tissue, and minimal disruption of glucose metabolism throughout all areas that are in charge of musical memory. This, according to the findings of the spoken study, allows patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease to preserve their musical memory for an extended period of time.