Alzheimer’s spares brain’s music regions | Science News

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Alzheimer’s spares brain’s music regions

Song familiarity survives dementia’s damage, study suggests

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8:00am, June 15, 2015
brains

MUSIC MEMORIES  A brain region that seems to be involved in recognizing familiar music (red, top left) showed relatively less gray matter thinning (top right) and higher metabolism (bottom left) than other parts of the brain, but still had substantial sticky amyloid-beta buildup (bottom right). Warmer colors are a sign of more advanced disease.

Parts of the brain that respond to music seem to withstand the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. These neural bastions, described June 3 in Brain, may help explain why music is sometimes able to move people suffering from advanced dementia.

The study is “thorough and meticulous,” says neurologist Oliver Sacks. “I thought their results fascinating,” suggesting an anatomical explanation for why music therapy can sometimes help patients.

Researchers began their study after noticing that music seemed to have a special influence on family members with Alzheimer’s, says University of Amsterdam neuroscientist Jörn-Henrik Jacobsen, who conducted the research at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany. A mother-in-law of one of the authors was still leading songs at her church despite her Alzheimer’s.

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