Disorders of music processing in dementia

Elsevier, Music and the Aging Brain, 2020, Pages 107-149
Elia Benhamou, Jason D.Warren

The musical brain is both highly susceptible and remarkably resilient to the effects of dementia. This apparent paradox reflects the complex and modular architecture of music cognition, the diversity of music processing disorders, and the characteristics of the diseases that cause dementia. The hierarchically organized, distributed brain networks that mediate different aspects of music processing are selectively targeted by neurodegenerative pathologies; accordingly, the major dementias have distinctive musical phenotypes and music is an informative probe of brain function in these diseases. In this chapter, we consider the rationale for studying music processing in the dementias, and the challenges this poses. We outline a taxonomy of musical disorders, neuroanatomical substrates, and disease associations. We highlight future avenues toward improved understanding of the musical brain in dementia, and how this may inform the development of musical therapies.