Musical Memories

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The choir has been running for a couple of years, and during this time, we have observed participants learning new songs with complex musical arrangements, and even in new languages, despite diagnoses that suggest they aren't able to learn new things. I have a friend who cares for her mother who has alzheimers and they are involved with this choir and this has had amazing benefits for both of them.

I have a family member who has Alzheimers I think this is a wonderful project. Music plays an important role in helping people with health issues and this is especially so when it comes to people struggling through life with any type of Dementia including Vascular, Lewybody and Alzheimers. Thanks to everyone involved with this choir Good luck with this project and I hope to be coming up to see you all at the choir soon.

Bill Schlink. John K, As a Choir member, I hope that other Carers and Dementia Patients support or join our choir to experience the joys and benefits of membership. Music and connection with others who understand your situation can be the best medicine. Well done Musical Memories Choir team. Keep up the great work!

Hi Jill, anyone who is interested in getting involved with the choir can email me at zara. Cheers, Zara. Log in with Facebook Log in with Google. Log in. Register with Pick My Project. Register with Facebook Register with Google. Register with email. Already a Pick My Project Member?

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You must have JavaScript enabled in your browser to utilize the functionality of this website. Songs from our past have an almost magical ability to take us back in time, stirring long forgotten memories and emotions. People with dementia respond in exactly the same way. What should I include? This is where the fun starts! Research suggests that the most potent period for musical memories is from the mid-teens to mid-twenties, so this could be a good place to begin.

Work out which years this would include for your loved one, then make a long list of popular songs from that time use Google to find them. A few particularly meaningful songs by Sinatra or Elvis are more impactful than several albums. Vary it Include a mix of calm, soothing music to help relax and unwind, and more upbeat tunes to help motivate and stimulate. Some people with dementia find headphones uncomfortable and try to take them off. See below! We all have a song that instantly transports us back in time so why not spend some time creating your own playlist too? This might be one of the reasons why musicians tend to show a slightly superior verbal working memory — at least in tonal languages such as Chinese [ 8 , 9 ].


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Recently, Sluming et al. Although hearing music is closely associated with strong emotional feelings, and although music activates the entire limbic system, which is involved in processing of emotions and in controlling memory [ 11 - 14 ], most studies examining musical memory have not focused on the role of emotion in this form of memory. In the foreground of these studies have been questions such as: Is there a difference between implicit unconscious and explicit conscious musical memory? Which surface parameters of music, such as timbre and tempo, are most relevant for efficiently transferring or encoding musical information into long-term memory and for retrieving it?

Are the titles of musical pieces recalled better than melodies, for instrumental or for vocal music? After encoding 40 unfamiliar short tunes, participants were asked to give explicit and implicit memory ratings for a list of 80 tunes, which included 40 that had previously been heard. To measure implicit memory, a rating of the pleasantness of old and new melodies was used, whereas to measure explicit memory the researchers used the difference between the recognition confidence ratings of old and new melodies.

Half of the 40 previously heard tunes differed in timbre or tempo in comparison with the first exposure. Change in timbre and tempo both impaired explicit memory, and change in tempo also made implicit tune recognition worse. These findings support the hypothesis on which this experiment was based — that there are two different musical memory systems, one implicit and the other explicit [ 1 ]. A similar distinction has been drawn by Samson and Peretz [ 15 ].

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On the basis of a comprehensive analysis of neurological patients suffering from lesions in either the right or the left temporal lobe, they concluded that right temporal lobe structures have a crucial role in the formation of melody representations that support priming and memory recognition, which are both more implicit memory processes, whereas left-sided temporal lobe structures are more involved in the explicit retrieval of melodies. Other studies have focused on one particular aspect of musical memory, memory for musical pitch. These studies were motivated by investigations into absolute pitch or perfect pitch , the rare ability of some people to identify or sing a musical note without relating it to a previously played note.

Many researchers believe that absolute pitch is a specific kind of musical memory. However, Levitin [ 2 ] found that it was more common than previously assumed. He asked a large sample of subjects who did not have absolute pitch to sing popular songs and compared the produced pitch with the actual pitches used in the recordings of these songs [ 2 ].

Forty-four percent were not perfect in producing the correct pitch but they were within two semitones of it. Thus, this study shows that even non-musicians might have relatively stable representations of pitch [ 2 ]. Pitch memory can be improved in non-musicians by pitch memory training and can even be enhanced by applying electrical stimulation to the left supramarginal gyrus [ 16 , 17 ]. Although these studies have told us some important things about pitch memory, only a few have focused on memory for longer musical pieces.

Therapeutic, community choir for people with dementia and their caregivers

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. Hearing music associated with our past often evokes a strong 'feeling of knowing'.

We have this feeling for many songs without knowing the title or text of the songs. We are, however, better at recalling the titles of the tunes we listen to when the tunes are instrumental than at remembering a melody by simply reading or hearing its title. The opposite pattern occurs when remembering vocals, for which the titles of the songs are much better cues than the melodies [ 3 ]. The finding of this link between text and music, which suggests that music is encoded in semantic memory like text, is of particular importance. Many researchers believe that music is encoded in the brain by the perceptual memory system, which organizes auditory information into melodies and rhythms, rather than by the semantic memory system, which encodes meaning.

Nevertheless, musical information could be associated with emotional and semantic information associative memory , either indirectly or directly, as was shown [ 3 ], even if it is not directly related to semantic information. A more recent paper by Stefan Koelsch and colleagues [ 18 ] has elegantly shown that short musical pieces with particular characteristics can prime the semantic language memory system, thereby yielding faster and more efficient recognition of specific words.

The general principle of their experiment [ 18 ] was to present target words that were preceded by either musical or sentence primes. Electrical brain responses to the target words the N event-related potential, a dip in scalp electrical activity that occurs milliseconds after the target word were measured. When the musical piece was semantically related to the target word, the brain response to the target word was reduced representing less neural activation associated with the search in semantic memory , whereas when the musical piece was unrelated to the target word, the response was enhanced.

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Other musical primes had been chosen on the basis of their musicological terminology; for example, the prime for the word 'narrowness' was an excerpt in which close intervals dominate. Others were chosen because they resembled the sounds of objects such as birds or qualities of objects such as low tones associated with a basement, or ascending steps in pitch with a staircase [ 18 ]. Taken together, these two experiments [ 3 , 18 ] demonstrate that there are bidirectional associations between the memory systems for language and melody.

A specific feature of the perceptually based music memory system is that the stored information is relatively abstract compared with that in semantic memory , allowing recognition despite changes in instrumentation, loudness, tempo or register. Lesion studies and recent brain imaging studies [ 19 - 21 ] have shown that this perceptual memory system is located bilaterally in the auditory cortex including the supramarginal gyrus.

In addition, the inferior frontal and inferior temporal brain areas have been shown to be important in recognizing familiar tunes. 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.

Musical Memories

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.

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