Characterization of music and photograph evoked autobiographical memories in people with Alzheimer's disease

Amee Baird*, Olivia Brancatisano, Rebecca Gelding, William Forde Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Music evoked autobiographical memories (MEAMs) have been documented in people with Alzheimer's disease (AD), but it is unclear whether music is more effective than other familiar stimuli at evoking memories. Objective: To explore the frequency and specificity of memories in response to famous songs compared with photographs of famous events (photograph evoked autobiographical memories, PEAMs), and whether stimuli from the period of the reminiscence bump (10-30 years of age) were more likely to elicit memories. Methods: 10 participants with AD and 10 aged-matched healthy elderly people reported memories following exposure to 2 songs (longest time at number one in Australian music charts) and 2 photographs (of prominent famous events) from each decade from 1930 to 2010. Results: PEAMs were more frequent than MEAMs in healthy elderly (p < 0.05), but no such differences were observed among people with AD. There was no difference in the frequency of MEAMs between groups, but people with AD showed a significant decline in the frequency of PEAMs. In both groups, MEAMs were typically less specific than PEAMs and comprised semantic knowledge or repeated/extended events. Stimuli from when participants were aged 10-30 years triggered more frequent memories compared with stimuli from later decades, but this was only statistically significant for MEAMs. Conclusion: Our findings indicate a preserved mnemonic effect of music relative to pictures in this patient population, corroborating suggestions that MEAMs represent an island of preservation during the progression of AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-706
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


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