Andrea Halpern, Professor of Psychology
Studies of musical abilities in dementia have for the most part been rather general assessments of abilities, for instance, assessing retention of music learned premorbidly. Here, we studied patients with dementias with contrasting cognitive profiles to explore specific aspects of music cognition under challenge. Patients suffered from Alzheimer’s disease (AD), in which a primary impairment is in forming new declarative memories, or Lewy body disease (PD/LBD), a type of parkinsonism in which executive impairments are prominent. In the AD patients, we examined musical imagery. Behavioral and neural evidence confirms involvement of perceptual networks in imagery, and these are relatively spared in early stages of the illness. Thus, we expected patients to have relatively intact imagery in a mental pitch comparison task. For the LBD patients, we tested whether executive dysfunction would extend to music. We probed inhibitory skills by asking for a speeded pitch or timbre judgment when the irrelevant dimension was held constant or also changed. Preliminary results show that AD patients score similarly to controls in the imagery tasks, but PD/LBD patients are impaired relative to controls in suppressing some irrelevant musical dimensions, particularly when the required judgment varies from trial to trial.
2014 The Authors. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences published by Wiley Periodicals Inc. on behalf of The New York Academy of Sciences.
Halpern, Andrea; Golden, Hannah L.; Magdalinou, Nadia; Witoonpanich, Pirada; and Warren, Jason D. “Musical Tasks Targeting Preserved and Impaired Functions in Two Dementias.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1337, no. 1 (2015) : 241-248.