Musical Structural Determinants of Emotional Judgments in Dementia of the Alzheimer Type






People with dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT) may well be emotionally soothed by listening to music. However, very few systematic studies have been conducted to support the anecdotal evidence. DAT does damage certain cerebral structures that subsume emotional processing, and some studies have demonstrated deficits affecting emotional judgments of facial expression and prosody in DAT. Accordingly, this study addressed the question of whether DAT might leave musical emotional judgment intact. Twelve early DAT participants and 12 healthy elderly participants took part in this study. Emotional judgments were examined in relation to mode and tempo, two important structural properties that contribute to the happy-sad distinction in music. Their respective contributions were assessed in four different experimental conditions. The DAT participants' responses were similar to those of healthy elderly participants, showing spared ability to employ tempo and mode as cues for emotional interpretation. The DAT participants' performance was not correlated with their global cognitive functioning. These results constitute a preliminary empirical demonstration that, in early DAT, musical emotional judgments appear to be based on normal structural analysis of musical input.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Alzheimer's and Related Dementias; Cognitive Abilities; Elderly; Emotional Functioning; Neurodegenerative Disorders

Indexed Terms

Acoustic Stimulation; Elderly; Elderly; Alzheimer Disease; Emotions; Judgment; Neuropsychological Tests

Study Type

Quasi-Experimental Study; Quantitative Methods

PubMed ID


Document Type