Music supports memory in multiple sclerosis

15-08-2014. Up to 65% of all MS patients suffer from cognitive impairments that have a negative impact on their quality of life, leisure opportunities and social life. The predominant cognitive deficits are memory problems that can show up in the early phases of the disease. Despite complex research, the exact cause of memory problems in MS is still unclear. One of the main theories is aimed at a disrupted learning process of new information. A reduced neural information processing speed is also assumed. Clinically significant: there are hardly any treatment options for those affected.

A research team from Colorado State University / USA conducted an EEG study with MS patients. Participants should note a list of 16 unrelated words and play them back in the correct order after 20 minutes. One group heard this list of words spoken out, while the second group received the same list of words in the form of a simple song.

Participants in the music group showed a significantly better word memory compared to the language group. Also noticeable were better results with word pairs and the rendering of the word order.

Learning words in the context of a song was characterized by the fact that the order of the words is determined by the melody. As a result, the brain is relieved from developing its own memory strategy for the sequence.

When learning music, 15 individual and unrelated terms were combined into manageable groups using melody phrases and song rhythm. The musical context on the one hand results in a better processing depth during the storage and on the other hand offers a reliable template for a successful reproduction of what has been learned.

The researcher also found that participants with more disabilities benefited more from music-based learning than less. This music-supported learning process can be used in the development of memory strategies for MS patients.

Thaut, Michael H. et al. (2014). Music mnemonics aid verbal memory an dinduce learning - related brain plasticity in multiple sclerosis. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 12 June 2014  doi: 10.3389 / fnhum.2014.00395

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