When the Wedding March becomes sad: Semantic memory impairment for music in the semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia

Neurocase. 2016 Dec;22(6):486-495. doi: 10.1080/13554794.2016.1257025. Epub 2016 Nov 16.


Music can induce particular emotions and activate semantic knowledge. In the semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia (svPPA), semantic memory is impaired as a result of anterior temporal lobe (ATL) atrophy. Semantics is responsible for the encoding and retrieval of factual knowledge about music, including associative and emotional attributes. In the present study, we report the performance of two individuals with svPPA in three experiments. NG with bilateral ATL atrophy and ND with atrophy largely restricted to the left ATL. Experiment 1 assessed the recognition of musical excerpts and both patients were unimpaired. Experiment 2 studied the emotions conveyed by music and only NG showed impaired performance. Experiment 3 tested the association of semantic concepts to musical excerpts and both patients were impaired. These results suggest that the right ATL seems essential for the recognition of emotions conveyed by music and that the left ATL is involved in binding music to semantics. They are in line with the notion that the ATLs are devoted to the binding of different modality-specific properties and suggest that they are also differentially involved in the processing of factual and emotional knowledge associated with music.

Keywords: Cognition; models; semantic memory; semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia; temporal lobe.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Aged
  • Aphasia, Primary Progressive / complications*
  • Aphasia, Primary Progressive / diagnostic imaging
  • Atrophy / etiology
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology
  • Language Tests
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Middle Aged
  • Music*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Semantics*
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology