Music-evoked autobiographical memories (MEAMs) in Alzheimer disease: Evidence for a positivity effect

Lola L. Cuddy, Ritu Sikka, Kristen Silveira, Tina Poon, Ashley Vanstone

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43 Citations (SciVal)


We present a study designed to assess the presence of the positivity effect in music-evoked autobiographical memories or MEAMs. In particular, we sought to determine whether the positivity effect was evident in cases of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), where a preserved memory for music in AD might also be reflected in an ability to retrieve memories associated with music. The positivity effect refers to instances where, compared to younger adults, older adults reveal a relative preference in attention and memory for positive over negative information. It is considered to be a hallmark of healthy aging. Three groups of participants—20 younger adults, 20 older adults, and 20 adults with mild-to-moderate AD—were asked to listen to familiar musical excerpts and describe any memories evoked by the excerpts. Word usage and topics in the memory transcripts were analyzed, as well as ratings of the memories provided by the participants in order to detect any positive bias or absence-of-negativity bias in older as compared to younger adults. Self-ratings yielded the strongest evidence. Compared with young adults, MEAMs for both groups of older adults were self-rated as less specific, but more vivid, more positive and less negative. In general, the characteristics of MEAMs reflected the effects of age rather than disease. For AD, MEAMs may reveal a sense of self-identity that has been preserved despite the ravages of neural degeneration.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1277578
JournalCogent Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date13 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2017


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