[Musical long-term memory throughout the progression of Alzheimer disease]

Geriatr Psychol Neuropsychiatr Vieil. 2013 Mar;11(1):99-109. doi: 10.1684/pnv.2013.0396.
[Article in French]


In Alzheimer patients with a solid musical background, isolated case-reports have reported the maintenance of remarkable musical abilities despite clear difficulties in their verbal memory and linguistic functions. These reports have encouraged a number of scientists to undertake more systematic studies which would allow a rigorous approach to the analysis of musical memory in Alzheimer patients with no formal musical background. Although restricted in number, the latest data are controversial regarding preserved musical capacities in Alzheimer patients. Our current review of the literature addresses this topic and advances the hypothesis that the processes of musical memory are function of illness progression. In the earlier stages, the majority of evaluations concerned musical episodic memory and suggested a dysfunction of this memory whereas in the moderate and severe stages, musical semantic memory and implicit learning are the majority of investigations and seemed more resistant to Alzheimer disease. In summary, our current review bring to understand the memory circuits involved and highlight the necessity to adapted the investigational tools employed to conform with the severity of the signs and symptoms of progressive Alzheimer disease in order to demonstrate the preserved musical capacities.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; episodic memory; implicit learning; music; semantic memory.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Memory, Long-Term*
  • Music