Music Perception in Dementia


Journal of Alzheimer's Disease




Despite much recent interest in music and dementia, music perception has not been widely studied across dementia syndromes using an information processing approach. Here we addressed this issue in a cohort of 30 patients representing major dementia syndromes of typical Alzheimer's disease (AD, n = 16), logopenic aphasia (LPA, an Alzheimer variant syndrome; n = 5), and progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA; n = 9) in relation to 19 healthy age-matched individuals. We designed a novel neuropsychological battery to assess perception of musical patterns in the dimensions of pitch and temporal information (requiring detection of notes that deviated from the established pattern based on local or global sequence features) and musical scene analysis (requiring detection of a familiar tune within polyphonic harmony). Performance on these tests was referenced to generic auditory (timbral) deviance detection and recognition of familiar tunes and adjusted for general auditory working memory performance. Relative to healthy controls, patients with AD and LPA had group-level deficits of global pitch (melody contour) processing while patients with PNFA as a group had deficits of local (interval) as well as global pitch processing. There was substantial individual variation within syndromic groups. Taking working memory performance into account, no specific deficits of musical temporal processing, timbre processing, musical scene analysis, or tune recognition were identified. The findings suggest that particular aspects of music perception such as pitch pattern analysis may open a window on the processing of information streams in major dementia syndromes. The potential selectivity of musical deficits for particular dementia syndromes and particular dimensions of processing warrants further systematic investigation.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Alzheimer's and Related Dementias; Cognitive Abilities; Elderly; Memory; Music and Cognition; Music Cognition; Neurodegenerative Disorders

Indexed Terms

Acoustic Stimulation; Elderly; Elderly; Auditory Perception; Auditory Perceptual Disorders; Case-Control Studies; Cohort Studies; Dementia; Neuropsychological Tests; Recognition, Psychology; Statistics as Topic; Statistics, Nonparametric; Alzheimer’s disease; auditory scene analysis; dementia; logopenic aphasia; progressive nonfluent aphasia

Study Type

Quasi-Experimental Study; Quantitative Methods

PubMed ID


Document Type