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Self-defining memories during exposure to music in Alzheimer's disease

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 May 2015

Mohamad El Haj*
Laboratoire SCALab UMR CNRS 9193-University of Lille Nord de France, France
Pascal Antoine
Laboratoire SCALab UMR CNRS 9193-University of Lille Nord de France, France
Jean Louis Nandrino
Laboratoire SCALab UMR CNRS 9193-University of Lille Nord de France, France
Marie-Christine Gély-Nargeot
Epsylon Laboratory, EA 4556, University Montpellier III, Montpellier, France
Stéphane Raffard
Epsylon Laboratory, EA 4556, University Montpellier III, Montpellier, France University Department of Adult Psychiatry, CHRU Montpellier, Montpellier, France
Correspondence should be addressed to: Mohamad El Haj, Laboratoire SCALab UMR CNRS 9193- University of Lille Nord de France, Domaine du Pont de Bois, 59653 Villeneuve d’Ascq, France. Phone: +33(0)3-20-41-72-05; Email:



Research suggests that exposure to music may enhance autobiographical recall in Alzheimer's Disease (AD) patients. This study investigated whether exposure to music could enhance the production of self-defining memories, that is, memories that contribute to self-discovery, self-understanding, and identity in AD patients.


Twenty-two mild-stage AD patients and 24 healthy controls were asked to produce autobiographical memories in silence, while listening to researcher-chosen music, and to their own-chosen music.


AD patients showed better autobiographical recall when listening to their own-chosen music than to researcher-chosen music or than in silence. More precisely, they produced more self-defining memories during exposure to their own-chosen music than to researcher-chosen music or during silence. Additionally, AD patients produced more self-defining memories than autobiographical episodes or personal-semantics during exposure to their own-chosen music. This pattern contrasted with the poor production of self-defining memories during silence or during exposure to researcher-chosen music. Healthy controls did not seem to enjoy the same autobiographical benefits nor the same self-defining memory enhancement in the self-chosen music condition.


Poor production of self-defining memories, as observed in AD, may somehow be alleviated by exposure to self-chosen music.

Research Article
Copyright © International Psychogeriatric Association 2015 

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