The Cognitive Organization of Music Knowledge: A Clinical Analysis

Journal

Brain

Year

2010

Volume

133

Issue

Pt 4

First Page

1200

Last Page

1213

Abstract

Despite much recent interest in the clinical neuroscience of music processing, the cognitive organization of music as a domain of non-verbal knowledge has been little studied. Here we addressed this issue systematically in two expert musicians with clinical diagnoses of semantic dementia and Alzheimer's disease, in comparison with a control group of healthy expert musicians. In a series of neuropsychological experiments, we investigated associative knowledge of musical compositions (musical objects), musical emotions, musical instruments (musical sources) and music notation (musical symbols). These aspects of music knowledge were assessed in relation to musical perceptual abilities and extra-musical neuropsychological functions. The patient with semantic dementia showed relatively preserved recognition of musical compositions and musical symbols despite severely impaired recognition of musical emotions and musical instruments from sound. In contrast, the patient with Alzheimer's disease showed impaired recognition of compositions, with somewhat better recognition of composer and musical era, and impaired comprehension of musical symbols, but normal recognition of musical emotions and musical instruments from sound. The findings suggest that music knowledge is fractionated, and superordinate musical knowledge is relatively more robust than knowledge of particular music. We propose that music constitutes a distinct domain of non-verbal knowledge but shares certain cognitive organizational features with other brain knowledge systems. Within the domain of music knowledge, dissociable cognitive mechanisms process knowledge derived from physical sources and the knowledge of abstract musical entities.

Music and Health Institute Terms

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

Indexed Terms

Elderly; Alzheimer Disease; Auditory Perception; Cognition; Emotions; Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration

Study Type

Quasi-Experimental Study; Quantitative Methods

Disciplines

Neurology

PubMed ID

20142334

Document Type

Article

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