Background: In mild Alzheimer's disease (AD), a deficit in episodic memory, particularly autobiographical memory, is clearly established. Several recent studies have also shown impaired semantic memory from the onset of the disease. Musical memory capacities may be especially preserved and listening to music might encourage autobiographical recall. The aim of this study was to explore recall of popular songs in AD.
Methods: We tested 12 patients with mild AD and 12 control subjects. We created a tool made up of old French popular songs: POP 10. This tool is a questionnaire composed of several subtests: melodic free recall, chorus free recall, melodic recognition, chorus recognition, semantic knowledge, autobiographical recall about the song, and autobiographical recall about the interpreter.
Results: We used non-parametric tests, the Mann–Whitney test (M–W), the Friedman test, and the a posteriori Wilcoxon test. Results of AD patients were rather similar to those of control participants for melodic memory. Concerning chorus memory (except recognition), semantic knowledge, and autobiographical recall about the interpreter, results of AD patients were significantly weaker than those of control participants. The most important result concerned autobiographical recall about the song: we found no impairment-related differences between the two groups.
Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate that popular songs can be excellent stimuli for reminiscence, such as the ability to produce an autobiographical memory related to a song. Thus, we confirm that musical semantic knowledge associated with a song may be relatively preserved in the early stages of AD. This leads to new possibilities for cognitive stimulation.