Familiar music may give cognitive boost
It’s long been known that Alzheimer’s patients often retain musical memories, even when recall of names, faces and places has been lost as the disease relentlessly destroys key areas of the brain. Now Canadian researchers believe they know why, thanks to the power of MRI brain scanning.
Toronto scientists enrolled 20 people with early-stage Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment in a study to discern what was occurring in their brains while they listened to familiar music and a composition they had never heard before while having MRI scans. When subjects listened to the previously unknown composition, it lit up a region of the brain known as the temporal lobe, “which is what we would have predicted because that part of the brain gets activated when you listen to anything,” said principal investigator Dr. Corinne Fischer, director of the memory disorders clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital.
But when participants listened to familiar music there was a much more extensive pattern of activation of several areas of the brain, including those involved with emotion and the processing of language, movement and memory.
“There’s always been this question of why music and the ability to appreciate music is preserved, even in the latest stages of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Fischer.
The researchers hope the findings offer the basis for a targeted form of music therapy, with a goal of potentially slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.