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22 Nov | 2021

We detect that music related to life experiences activates parts of the brain other than those involved in the natural process of remembering.

Researchers at our research center, the Barcelonaβeta Brain Research Center (BBRC), have analyzed how some songs linked to personal experiences from the past would activate different parts of the brain than those involved in the natural process of remembering. Thus, while habitual memory is associated with the default neural network (DMN), the retrieval of autobiographical facts associated with certain musical pieces would be linked to attentional and perceptual processing processes.

The study, published in the journal Behavioral Brain Research, identifies using magnetic resonance imaging brain networks activated by listening to memory-related music and music unrelated to personal memories. Through a comparison between the two, researchers have detected the existence of a specific brain network for access to autobiographical memories linked to the musical pieces that participants listened to.

Most people have a “soundtrack” of their lives, a set of special pieces of music closely related to biographical experiences. Autobiographical Memories (AM) and music listening (ML) are complex mental processes that are driven by differentiated neural networks. The aim of the work was to determine the way in which the two networks interact, through the study with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of 31 healthy participants.

In the words of Carlos Falcon, Researcher at the BBRC Neuroimaging Research Group, “this line of research, still in a preliminary phase, related to the persistence of music-related memories in the last stages of Alzheimer's disease, could open a way to the study of how music can make some memories, which would otherwise be lost, persist ”.

A better understanding of the connection of neural networks could shed new light on the functional organization of the brain and help design therapies to reinfore autobiographical memories in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.