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Monday, 25 December, 2000, 23:59 GMT
Dementia 'affects musical taste'
Dementia
Dementia patients developed a taste for pop music
People who suffer from dementia may suddenly find that they develop new and unexpected tastes in music, researchers have found.

Dementia is often characterised by a loss of reasoning abilities, language skills and memory.

But researchers at the National Centre for Research and Care of Alzheimer's Disease in Brescia, Italy, found that two of the patients who had frontotemporal dementia demonstrated something new.

They acquired an appreciation for a kind of music they previously disliked.


Our patients developed a new attitude to appreciate a kind of music that they used to dislike

Dr Giovanni Frisoni
In one example, a 68-year-old lawyer became progressively more apathetic, indifferent to his work, lost his inhibitions, and developed problems with speaking and abstract thinking.

About two years after his diagnosis, he began to listen at full volume to a popular Italian pop music band.

Formerly a classical music listener, he had once referred to pop music as "mere noise".

In another example, a 73-year-old women developed apathy and loss of interest in her children.

Easy listening

About a year after her diagnosis, she developed an interest in music, where she had barely tolerated easy-listening tunes before, and began sharing her 11-year-old granddaughter's interest in pop music.

Researcher Dr Giovanni Frisoni said: "Our patients developed a new attitude to appreciate a kind of music that they used to dislike.

"Although it cannot be claimed that such behaviour is specific to dementia, the behaviour is unlikely in other types of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease.

"In fact, it never came out during history collection in any of the 1,500 new Azheimer's patients seen in our centre in the last five years, while it was detected in two of the 46 new dementia patients seen in the same period."

Explanation

Dr Frisoni offered some possible explanations for the change in musical preferences.

First, the change of behaviour could be tied to a change in one's attitude toward novelty.

He said: "To people over age 60, pop music is considered novel.

"Previous studies have suggested that novelty is managed by the brain's right frontal lobe, and a predominance of the right over the left frontal lobe might lead to novelty seeking."

Second, lesions may have damaged the brain's frontal and temporal lobe, involved in the perception of pitch, timbre, rhythm, and familiarity.

Another study by neurologists at the University of California-Los Angeles released in 1998 reported that dementia brings out artistic talents in people who never had them before.

In that study, it was observed that patients developed artistic talents, including music and drawing, which flourished while the dementia worsened.

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See also:

16 Nov 00 | Health
Music therapy 'helps dementia'
07 Aug 00 | Health
Scans uncover 'music of the mind'
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