Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Why we are so good at playing name that tune

November 20th, 2020 No comments

If you are driving in the car and your favorite song from middle school comes on, you are most likely able to instantly start singing every word of it. Have you ever stopped and wondered how you could remember all of the words from so long ago? Well, that is due to processes in your memory where lyrics to a song can be easier to encode into your memory. Before I get into that, I will first describe some basic aspects of memory. The steps in memory processes include encoding, which inputs environmental information into our memory; storage, which is the process of storing that information in memory; and retrieval, which is the output of information from our memory. The modal model of memory, created by Atkinson and Shiffrin, begins with an input of environmental stimuli that gets stored in sensory memory for a short period of time in order to recognize any patterns. We then focus our attention on the information we want to store in our memory, sending that information to short term memory. This information can also be placed into long term memory. Information can then be retrieved from our long term memory, such as the lyrics to that favorite song from middle school (McBride & Cutting, 2019). This information on memory provides some background of what I will now discuss, which is why we are able to remember the lyrics to so many songs.

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It must be something in the way she sings!

November 24th, 2015 4 comments

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 12.28.20 PMSo it’s a Sunday afternoon and you are walking to lunch, the library, or the gym, and all of a sudden you start to sing the words to a song and it seems to come out of nowhere! Has this ever happened to you? I can testify to this and say that numerous times I find myself singing a song and I have no idea why. In fact, why do we still remember childhood songs such as “the wheels on the bus go round and round” or start singing a song we once loved in the 8th grade? The idea that song melodies seem to stick in our memory for long periods of time is an interesting concept.

Weiss et al., 2012, investigated the impact that melodies have on our memory. In their study, a group of participants listened to melodies, either vocal or instrumental, and were later asked to recall what they had heard. The participants listened to melodies from four categories: voice, piano, banjo, or marimba. In addition, the participants had to rate whether they felt happy, sad, or neutral while listening to the melody. They completed a recognition task in which they heard the same 16 melodies and then a set of 16 new melodies. They were asked to rate which ones were old or new. The results of their study concluded that the melodies that had been presented vocally to the participants were better remembered than those that were presented instrumentally, even if the participant liked an instrument more than a vocal melody. There was no difference of recognition or liking among the instrumental timbres.

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A Trip Down Memory Lane: How Music Invokes Involuntary Autobiographical Memories In Alzheimer’s Patients

November 24th, 2015 No comments


In today’s increasingly connected, online world, our personal information — and the identities that come with it — is essentially up for grabs to even the most amateur of criminals. With new data breaches causing panic on a routine basis, identity theft is becoming more and more of a commonplace crime that leaves victims scrambling to pick up the pieces. However, there is one form of identity theft from which recovery is impossible. Over 5.3 million Americans in the United States alone have fallen victim to Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) (Alzheimer’s Association, 2015)– a ruthless and cunning identity thief. Its assault is fairly subtle as it slowly strips its victims of their sense of self, whisking away cognitive abilities such as language, problem-solving skills, attention, and – perhaps most salient of all – the memories that are so crucial to the maintenance of one’s identity and way of life.

Although “memory loss” is listed as a common symptom of AD, this term is particularly uninformative due to the presence of multiple, separate memory systems that serve a variety of different functions – the loss of which are characteristic of AD. For instance, deficits to working memory – or the system responsible for holding onto new, fleeting information long enough for further processing and encoding imagesinto memory storage – have been identified in AD patients. However, most of us would probably associate the vague term “memory loss” with long-term memory (LTM) – the brain’s storage system for permanent, lifetime memories. The memories stored within LTM can be broken down into distinct types, all of which can be affected by AD: procedural, semantic, and episodic memories. Procedural memories essentially involve instructions for common, frequently performed tasks. For instance, after finally mastering the task of riding a bike, we no longer have to actively recall the steps involved. Instead, we automatically run through the motions without much conscious effort. Semantic memory, on the other hand, involves what is essentially our long-term storage of more general knowledge – for example, the “random” facts that you can recall in order to answer Jeopardy questions. Read more…

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Can’t Stop The Music: Individuals with Alzheimer’s are spared their memory for music

November 23rd, 2015 2 comments

I guess I jumped the gun and gave the answer away in my title, but… does the loss of memory due to diseases like Alzheimer’s affect memory for music?

Typically in research fields, losing something allows us to understand how that something works. In this case, losing memory as a result of Alzheimer’s disease provides information on what is cognitively impaired as well as what is not impaired. So does losing your memory due to dementia impair memory for music?  If evidence points to the answer no, perhaps there exists a unique memory system solely for music; but if evidence points to the answer yes, perhaps there still exists a unique memory system for music. That’s pretty confusing. I’ll make a valiant effort to explain what I mean by analyzing a psychological study. Kerer et al. (2013) seek to answer this main research question by examining explicit memory for music in individuals with and without cognitive impairment, including those with Alzheimer’s disease.


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Is your favorite music distracting you?

November 23rd, 2015 2 comments

Do you listen to music while you do assigned homework? Do you listen to music while you study? Do you listen to music while you are reading for class? If you are a college student I would assume that you said yes to at least one of these questions. As college student, when I am in the library or any public study space I often see the majority of my peers with headphones in while doing their work. Whether or not they are all just trying to avoid talking to me, I will never know, but I usually assume that there is some sort of sound or music coming from the headphones. Often people’s reasoning for doing this is because they want to “tune out” all of the distractions and conversations happening around them. Furthermore, if they are “tuning out” all of the distracting sounds around them then they think they are successfully staying focused and internalizing whatever material they are working on.

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Should I sign up for a real class or just take music lessons? Why music lessons are more than just a fun pastime.

November 23rd, 2014 4 comments

When I was in fourth grade we had the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument in school. Between band and orchestra we were allowed to select any instrument of our choice and we received music lessons every Friday afternoon at the end of the school day. These instruments were like toys to us. Instead of hanging in the classroom and silently doing our math worksheets we were able to make loud noises with trumpets, violins, and drums. We would get so excited every Friday afternoon because we got to skip out on time normally spent sitting at our desks – we got what we thought was a break from learning.


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Can you Sleep Your Way to Becoming Mozart?

May 4th, 2014 6 comments


Musicians are credited with an acute ability to memorize lengthy pieces of music and then reproduce them with grace and beauty.  But how do they do it? How do they remember every single note and every single rest so perfectly?  Many studies in the past have investigated the role of memory in learning.  They have shown that, even after practice and rehearsal, memory does not stop consolidating, even if we are not consciously aware of this happening.  Consolidation is the process in which the brain gathers all the information you are practicing or rehearsing, packs it together, and sends it to the long-term memory.  This means that even after we stop actively trying to practice something, our brains keep on working to rehearse the information and store it in our memory for the long haul. Research has found that memory consolidation usually happens on larger scales during sleep.  However, many studies have also found that a factor that interferes with memory consolidation is learning multiple novel tasks.  Interference is where one process you engage in disrupts the consolidation of another process.  For example, you may learn how to drive a boat, but then have to learn how to drive a car, but the instructions you received when learning to drive a boat may get in the way of you learning new rules for driving a car.  Interference is a big problem for consolidation because it confuses your brain so that it doesn’t know which information to retain in its memory vault. Researchers found that learning a second novel task after a previous one would interfere with the consolidation of the original task, even after sleep. Allen’s study investigated to what extent sleep had an effect on the consolidation of memory for a target, musical task, if two other tasks were also learned in the same training session.

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Does the sound of music really help with memory?

April 28th, 2014 1 comment

Sound of Music

In the classic film The Sound of Music, Maria teaches the Von Trapp children primarily through song. If you don’t recall the words from the song that starts “Doe a deer a female deer…” you might be sorely missing an important part of your movie education. The song is pretty catchy after all. Once someone starts singing it, I can’t seem to get it out of my head. It turns out music can be helpful beyond just having something to dance to. It can really help us remember things. In fact, some studies may suggest that learning through song can actually enhance one’s memory. The most basic example I can think of is learning the alphabet.  The alphabet song is pretty catchy and helps kids to better remember it. An interesting question then is: how far this musical benefit extend? Can music potentially help older adults or even adults with Alzheimer’s remember more? In Simmons-Stern et al.’s “Music-based memory enhancement in Alzheimer’s Disease: Promise and Limitation” one of the central questions is: To what extent can music enhance memory function in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD)?

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The valuable skill you learned in elementary school

November 25th, 2013 5 comments

When I was a senior in high school, a close friend of mine was asked to help another friend’s older brother with a psychology experiment. She was going to be singing tracks for him, and all I remember was feeling entirely unsurprised, because she was the best singer I knew and I always been a little jealous of her. Fast-forward four years, and I’m searching through PsycInfo, looking at articles about music and memory, when I come across an incredibly familiar last name. “That’s so weird,” I think, “how many Simmons-Stern’s could there possibly be in the world?” So I read the article, and as it turns out, it’s the very same study that was being created my senior year, published in a real journal. Not only that, but it’s an incredibly interesting read, which is why I’m going to share it with all of you. Read more…

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Knee surgery? Don’t forget the boombox.

November 24th, 2013 1 comment

When I was a kid, my dad’s mom was always the sharpest, most pointedly funny person at our family gatherings. She was smart and witty, and also incredibly independent, living alone in a split-level house and always baking things to bring to our parties (even if everything she made tasted like cigarettes). When she was in her late 70s, however, she fell in the house and broke her hip, leading to a surgery and fairly lengthy hospital stay. We visited several times during her hospitalization, and I remember that even as a kid I could tell something wasn’t right. My grandmother wasn’t her normal self – she seemed like she was processing slower, and she sometimes became confused about what was happening, which I had never seen happen to her. Read more…

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