Music and Memory in Alzheimer's Disease and The Potential Underlying Mechanisms

J Alzheimers Dis. 2016;51(4):949-59. doi: 10.3233/JAD-150998.


With population aging and a projected exponential expansion of persons diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (AD), the development of treatment and prevention programs has become a fervent area of research and discovery. A growing body of evidence suggests that music exposure can enhance memory and emotional function in persons with AD. However, there is a paucity of research that aims to identify specific underlying neural mechanisms associated with music's beneficial effects in this particular population. As such, this paper reviews existing anecdotal and empirical evidence related to the enhancing effects of music exposure on cognitive function and further provides a discussion on the potential underlying mechanisms that may explain music's beneficial effect. Specifically, this paper will outline the potential role of the dopaminergic system, the autonomic nervous system, and the default network in explaining how music may enhance memory function in persons with AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; autobiographical memory; default network; dopamine; mechanisms; music; sympathetic activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / complications*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / therapy*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Memory Disorders / therapy
  • Music Therapy / methods*


  • Dopamine