Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have shown that patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) are better able to remember new verbal information when it is provided in the context of music even when compared to healthy, older adults. The findings, which currently appear on-line in Neuropsychologia, offer possible applications in treating and caring for patients with AD.
AD, the most common form of dementia, is characterized by a general, progressive decline in cognitive function that typically presents first as impaired episodic memory. The onset and rate of this decline tends to vary across cognitive domains, and some functions may be preferentially spared in patients with AD.
To determine whether music can enhance new learning of information, AD patients and healthy controls were presented with either the words spoken, or the lyrics sung with full musical accompaniment along with the printed lyrics on a computer screen. The participants were presented visually with the lyrics to 40 songs. Twenty of the song lyrics were accompanied by their corresponding sung recording and 20 were accompanied by their spoken recording.
After each presentation, participants were asked to indicate whether or not they were previously famliiar with the song they had just heard. The BUSM researchers found accuracy was greater in the sung condition than in the spoken condition for AD patients but not for healthy older adults.