Ground-breaking study shows music capable of evoking memories in patients with acquired brain injuries

Music has long been shown to aid in the recollection of autobiographical memories in the general population. In recent years, it’s also been proven beneficial to those with Alzheimer’s, or those who have suffered a stroke. However, a recent study proves this process valuable for patients with acquired brain injuries (ABIs). This study is the very first of its kind to examine the possibility of triggering music-evoked autobiographical memories (MEAMs) in patients of this nature.

In the recent issue of Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, Amee Baird and Séverine Samson explain how they have used popular music to help patients with severe brain injuries recall personal memories. The study began with playing extracts from “Billboard Hot 100” number-one songs in random order to five patients taken from the entirety of the patient’s lifespan (commencing age five). These songs were also played to five control participants with no brain injuries. Following the procedure, all subjects were ask to record their familiarity with the given songs, whether or not they was pleasing to hear, and what memories they evoked. The following findings were provided by the Taylor & Francis group:

Doctors Baird and Samson found that the frequency of recorded MEAMs was similar for patients (38%–71%) and controls (48%–71%). Only one of the four ABI patients recorded no MEAMs. In fact, the highest number of MEAMs in the whole group was recorded by one of the ABI patients. In all those studied, the majority of MEAMs were of a person, people or a life period and were typically positive. Songs that evoked a memory were noted as more familiar and more liked than those that did not.

As a potential tool for helping patients regain their memories, Baird and Samson conclude that: “Music was more efficient at evoking autobiographical memories than verbal prompts of the Autobiographical Memory Interview (AMI) across each life period, with a higher percentage of MEAMs for each life period compared with AMI scores.”

The full study may be found here.

The implications of these findings, in terms of neurological rehabilitation through music, memory, and emotion, are simply enormous. I look very forward to learning more of what the inimitable effects of music may have for those whose hope relies in neurological and psychological resilience.

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