Music brings memories back to the brain injured

December 10, 2013

In the first study of its kind, two researchers have used popular music to help severely brain-injured patients recall personal memories. Amee Baird and Séverine Samson outline the results and conclusions of their pioneering research in the recent issue of the journal Neuropsychological Rehabilitation.

Although their study covered a small number of cases, it's the very first to examine 'music-evoked ' (MEAMs) in with acquired brain injuries (ABIs), rather than those who are healthy or suffer from Alzheimer's Disease.

In their study, Baird and Samson played extracts from 'Billboard Hot 100' number-one songs in random order to five patients. The songs, taken from the whole of the patient's lifespan from age five, were also played to five with no brain injury. All were asked to record how familiar they were with a given song, whether they liked it, and what memories it invoked.

Doctors Baird and Samson found that the frequency of recorded MEAMs was similar for patients (38%–71%) and controls (48%–71%). Only one of the four ABI patients recorded no MEAMs. In fact, the highest number of MEAMs in the whole group was recorded by one of the ABI patients. In all those studied, the majority of MEAMs were of a person, people or a life period and were typically positive. Songs that evoked a were noted as more familiar and more liked than those that did not.

As a potential tool for helping patients regain their memories, Baird and Samson conclude that: "Music was more efficient at evoking autobiographical memories than verbal prompts of the Autobiographical Memory Interview (AMI) across each life period, with a higher percentage of MEAMs for each life period compared with AMI scores."

"The findings suggest that music is an effective stimulus for eliciting autobiographical memories and may be beneficial in the rehabilitation of autobiographical amnesia, but only in patients without a fundamental deficit in autobiographical recall memory and intact pitch perception."

The authors hope that their ground-breaking work will encourage others to carry out further studies on MEAMs in larger ABI populations. They also call for further studies of both healthy people and those with other neurological conditions to learn more about the clear relationship between memory, music and emotion; they hope that one day we might truly "understand the mechanisms underlying the unique memory enhancing effect of ".

Explore further: Young adults reminisce about music from before their time

More information: "Music evoked autobiographical memory after severe acquired brain injury: Preliminary findings from a case series," A. Baird and S. Samson, Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, DOI: 10.1080/09602011.2013.858642.

Related Stories

Young adults reminisce about music from before their time

September 9, 2013

Music has an uncanny way of bringing us back to a specific point in time, and each generation seems to have its own opinions about which tunes will live on as classics. New research suggests that young adults today are fond ...

Recommended for you

Placebo sweet spot for pain relief found in brain

October 27, 2016

Scientists have identified for the first time the region in the brain responsible for the "placebo effect" in pain relief, when a fake treatment actually results in substantial reduction of pain, according to new research ...

Team announces mapping of the mouse cortex in 3-D

October 27, 2016

The Allen Institute for Brain Science has completed the three-dimensional mapping of the mouse cortex as part of the Allen Mouse Common Coordinate Framework (CCF): a standardized spatial coordinate system for comparing many ...

Neuro chip records brain cell activity

October 26, 2016

Brain functions are controlled by millions of brain cells. However, in order to understand how the brain controls functions, such as simple reflexes or learning and memory, we must be able to record the activity of large ...

Can a brain-computer interface convert your thoughts to text?

October 25, 2016

Ever wonder what it would be like if a device could decode your thoughts into actual speech or written words? While this might enhance the capabilities of already existing speech interfaces with devices, it could be a potential ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.