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Music Recognition in Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration and Alzheimer Disease

Johnson, Julene K. PhD*,†; Chang, Chiung-Chih MD; Brambati, Simona M. PhD§; Migliaccio, Raffaella MD, PhD†,∥; Gorno-Tempini, Maria Luisa MD, PhD; Miller, Bruce L. MD; Janata, Petr PhD

Cognitive & Behavioral Neurology:
doi: 10.1097/WNN.0b013e31821de326
Original Studies

Objective: To compare music recognition in patients with frontotemporal dementia, semantic dementia, Alzheimer disease, and controls and to evaluate the relationship between music recognition and brain volume.

Background: Recognition of familiar music depends on several levels of processing. There are few studies about how patients with dementia recognize familiar music.

Methods: Subjects were administered tasks that assess pitch and melody discrimination, detection of pitch errors in familiar melodies, and naming of familiar melodies.

Results: There were no group differences on pitch and melody discrimination tasks. However, patients with semantic dementia had considerable difficulty naming familiar melodies and also scored the lowest when asked to identify pitch errors in the same melodies. Naming familiar melodies, but not other music tasks, was strongly related to measures of semantic memory. Voxel-based morphometry analysis of brain magnetic resonance imaging showed that difficulty in naming songs was associated with the bilateral temporal lobes and inferior frontal gyrus, whereas difficulty in identifying pitch errors in familiar melodies correlated with primarily the right temporal lobe.

Conclusions: The results support a view that the anterior temporal lobes play a role in familiar melody recognition, and that musical functions are affected differentially across forms of dementia.

Author Information

Departments of *Social and Behavioral Sciences, Institute for Health and Aging

Department of Neurology, University of California San Francisco

Department of Psychology, Center for Mind and Brain, University of California Davis, CA

Department of Neurology, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

§Centre de Recherche de l'Institut universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal, Canada

Centre de Recherche de l'Institut du Cerveau et de la Moëlle Epinière (CRICM), Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, Paris, France

Supported by the National Institutes of Health [P01-AG019724 and M01-RR0079 to B.L.M. and R01 NS050915 to M.L.G-T.] and the California Department of Health Services [04-35516 to M.L.G-T.] and Chang Gung Memorial Hospital Fellowship to Chiung-Chih Chang.

Reprints: Julene K. Johnson, PhD, Institute for Health and Aging, University of California San Francisco, 3333 California Street, Suite 340, San Francisco, CA 94118-0646 (e-mail:

Received September 9, 2010

Accepted April 4, 2011

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.