Presentation by Dr. Lola Cuddy
Musical memories in normal and disordered aging
Abstract: I will begin with a brief overview of methods and approaches to the study of musical memory with a focus on memory for melodies. I will then describe research assessing musical memory in normal elderly individuals, confirming previous findings that, for them, the acquisition of new musical materials may be compromised. However, memory for familiar melodies and familiar lyrics is well preserved in normal aging at all levels of musical experience. Detection of pitch errors in melodies is also well preserved. I will then proceed to the main and surprising finding that, despite their extensive cognitive difficulties in other domains, persons with dementia of the Alzheimer type often show preserved memory for tunes and lyrics. Performance in the normal range is found through the mild and moderate stages of dementia and normal performance may extend, for a few individuals, to the severe stage. Implications for a memory system for music will be presented.
Bio: Dr. Lola Cuddy attended the University of Manitoba (A.M.M. – piano performance, B.A.) and the University of Toronto (M.A., Ph.D.). She is currently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at Queen’s University and Director of the Music Cognition Laboratory which she founded in 1965. Her research interests include hierarchical structures in music processing, pitch and timbre perception, music training and musical skills, music training and emotional sensitivity, and the role of music in neurological disorders. Lola was President of the Society of Music Perception and Cognition in 2001 and 2002, hosting their biannual conference in 2001 at Queen’s University. She continues to serve on the Scientific Advisory Board for the international conferences and is editor of the journal Music Perception, an interdisciplinary journal publishing theoretical and empirical studies of music perception, cognition, and performance. In 2002, Lola was awarded the Frank Knox Award for Excellence in Teaching by the Queen’s Alma Mater Society. Her research is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and the GRAMMY foundation.