Washington: In a first, researchers have used popular music to help severely brain-injured patients recall personal memories.

The study is first to examine ‘music-evoked autobiographical memories’ (MEAMs) in patients with acquired brain injuries (ABIs), rather than those who are healthy or suffer from Alzheimer’s.

In the study published in the journal  Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, researchers played extracts from ‘Billboard Hot 100’ number-one songs in random order to five patients.

The Billboard Hot 100 is the American music industry standard singles popularity chart issued weekly by Billboard magazine.

The songs, taken from the whole of the patient’s lifespan from age five, were also played to five control subjects with no brain injury. All were asked to record how familiar they were with a given song, whether they liked it, and what memories it invoked.

Researchers found that the frequency of recorded MEAMs was similar for patients (38 per cent-71 per cent) and controls (48 per cent-71 per cent).

Only one of the four ABI patients recorded no MEAMs. In fact, the highest number of MEAMs in the whole group was recorded by one of the ABI patients.

In all those studied, the majority of MEAMs were of a person, people or a life period and were typically positive.

Songs that evoked a memory were noted as more familiar and more liked than those that did not.

“Music was more efficient at evoking autobiographical memories than verbal prompts of the Autobiographical Memory Interview (AMI) across each life period, with a higher percentage of MEAMs for each life period compared with AMI scores,” researchers said.

“The findings suggest that music is an effective stimulus for eliciting autobiographical memories and may be beneficial in the rehabilitation of autobiographical amnesia, but only in patients without a fundamental deficit in autobiographical recall memory and intact pitch perception,” they added.

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