the effect of pathological aging on explicit memory is very well documented, but relatively few studies have addressed this issue in the musical domain. To examine learning and consolidation of melodies, we designed a melodic recognition task involving immediate and delayed recognition of 16 target melodies (8 familiar and 8 unfamiliar). Seventeen patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease (AD) and 17 age-matched controls were tested. During the initial presentation of the targets, the participant had to decide whether or not the melody was familiar. Recognition was tested after one and three presentations of the target melodies using a yes/no recognition paradigm. Delayed recognition was tested after 24 hours to evaluate consolidation. In keeping with the findings of Bartlett, Halpern, and Dowling (1995), age-matched controls showed better recognition of familiar than unfamiliar melodies. Controls also showed improved performance with multiple presentations for both familiar and unfamiliar melodies, without forgetting after 24-hour delay. In contrast, patients with AD showed impaired learning and recognition of both unfamiliar and familiar melodies with no benefit of familiarity on recognition. Nevertheless, the familiarity decision-based ratings of patients was in keeping with controls. These findings suggest that musical recognition memory is impaired in AD, but the musical lexicon (as assessed by familiarity ratings) is preserved. These findings highlight the need to use both familiar and unfamiliar music in experimental tasks to study the different processes underlying recognition memory.
the goal of this study is to assess whether new lyrics are better learned and memorized when presented in a spoken or sung form. In normal young adults, mixed results have been reported, with studies showing a positive, a negative, or a null effect of singing on verbal recall. Several factors can account for this limited aid of music. First, the familiarity of the melody might play a role. Second, successive learning sessions and long-term retention intervals may be necessary. These two factors are considered here in a case study of a participant who suffers from mild Alzheimer's disease. As expected, initial learning of new lyrics showed better performance for the spoken condition over the sung version unless the lyrics are learned on a familiar melody. After repeated learning episodes, learning sung lyrics – even on an unfamiliar melody – led to better retention of words. Thus, music may provide a more robust aid for consolidation in memory than spoken lyrics alone. The therapeutic implications of these results are discussed.