Brain injury, memory and music studied

Two researchers from the University of Newcastle in Australia have found that music may be successfully used to help people with acquired brain injuries (ABIs) regain their memories.

Amee Baird and Severine Samson played five participants with ABIs extracts from Billboard Hot 100 number one singles dating back from when they were five to the present day.

They were asked to record their familiarity with the song, say if they liked it and detail any memories it evoked.

The study found that the frequency of 'music-evoked autobiographical memories' (MEAMs) was similar in the patients with brain injuries (38 to 71 per cent) as it was to that in the control group without memory problems (48 to 71 per cent).

Only one participant recorded no MEAMs - and the results were more efficient at helping to recall people or life events than verbal prompts from the traditional Autobiographical Memory Interview.

Writing in the journal Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, the authors concluded: "The findings suggest that music is an effective stimulus for eliciting autobiographical memories and may be beneficial in the rehabilitation of autobiographical amnesia."

However, the limited sample size may mean more research needs to be done before it can be recommended as a treatment.

Earlier this month, an Oxford Brookes University study presented at the Annual Conference of our Division of Clinical Psychology found that people who sing in choirs could enjoy a boost to their psychological wellbeing.

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