Preservation of musical memory and engagement in healthy aging and Alzheimer's disease

Lola L Cuddy, Ritu Sikka, Ashley Vanstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Citations (SciVal)


In striking contrast to the difficulties with new learning and episodic memories in aging and especially in Alzheimer's disease (AD), musical long-term memories appear to be largely preserved. Evidence for spared musical memories in aging and AD is reviewed here. New data involve the development of a Musical Engagement Questionnaire especially designed for use with AD patients. The questionnaire assesses behavioral responses to music and is answered by the care partner. Current results show that, despite cognitive loss, persons with mild to moderate AD preserve musical engagement and music seeking. Familiar music evokes personal autobiographical memories for healthy younger and older adults as well and for those with mild to moderate AD. It is argued that music is a prime candidate for being a stimulus for cognitive stimulation because musical memories and associated emotions may be readily evoked; that is, they are strong and do not need to be repaired. Working with and through music as a resource may enhance social and communication functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-231
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
Early online date13 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2015


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Alzheimer Disease/physiopathology
  • Cognition
  • Communication
  • Dementia/physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Mental Recall
  • Music
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Recognition, Psychology/physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


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