STUDY ALERT: Preservation of musical memory in an amnesic professional cellist

September 22, 2012 in Study Alerts

Preservation of musical memory in an amnesic professional cellist 

Carsten Finke, Nazli E. Esfahani, and Christoph J. Ploner 

Learning and memory of music involves a multitude of perceptual, motor, affective, and autobiographical memory processes [1]. Patient and imaging studies suggest that musical memory may involve distinct neural substrates [2,3]. However, the degree of independence of such a system from other memory domains is controversial [4]. We have investigated a 68-year-old professional cellist, patient PM, who developed severe amnesia following encephalitis. This case provided a unique opportunity to study musical memory in a patient with a precisely defined premorbid musical knowledge and well- demarcated focal lesions of the brain. Despite severe memory impairments, he performed like healthy musicians in various tests of recognition memory for music. These findings suggest that learning and retention of musical information depends on brain networks distinct from those involved in other types of episodic and semantic memory.

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