Damage to the Medial Prefrontal Cortex Impairs Music-Evoked Autobiographical Memories
Familiar music contains salient cues that often evoke vivid and emotionally powerful autobiographical memories. Prior work suggests that memories evoked by music may be different from memories evoked by other cues (e.g., words and visual images). For example, music-evoked autobiographical memories (MEAMs) have been shown to contain a greater proportion of episodic details than memories evoked by images. Neuroimaging work has suggested an important role for the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in connecting music with vivid and specific autobiographical memories. Here, we sought to investigate whether the mPFC is a necessary structure for episodically rich MEAMs, by studying individuals with damage to this region. We predicted that individuals with damage to the mPFC would have less episodically rich MEAMs than demographically matched healthy adults, but that there would not be any difference in memories evoked by images. Participants listened to popular music clips and viewed images of famous persons. After each stimulus, participants reported whether the stimulus evoked a memory; if it did, participants then verbally described the memories. Memories were recorded, transcribed, and scored to assess episodic richness. In support of our main prediction, the results indicated that the mPFC group performed significantly lower than the comparison group for music-evoked, but not face-evoked, memories. These results can be taken to suggest that the mPFC is a critical structure for connecting musical cues with particularly specific and episodically detailed autobiographical memories.
Belfi, A. M., Karlan, B., & Tranel, D. (2018). Damage to the Medial Prefrontal Cortex Impairs Music-Evoked Autobiographical Memories. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1037/pmu0000222
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