Anomia for Musical Entities


Background: Previous work has investigated extensively the neuroanatomical correlates of lexical retrieval of words for concrete entities. Musical entities, such as musical instruments, are often included in studies of category-specific naming deficits but have rarely been the focus of such work.

Aims: This article reviews a program of research investigating the neuroanatomical basis for lexical retrieval of words for unique (i.e., melodies) and nonunique (i.e., musical instruments) musical entities.

Main Contribution: We begin by reporting findings on the retrieval of words for unique musical entities, including musical melodies. We then consider work focusing on retrieval of words for nonunique musical entities, specifically musical instruments. We highlight similarities between the two lines of work and then report results from new analyses including direct comparisons between the two. These comparisons suggest that impairments in naming musical melodies and in naming musical instruments are both associated with damage to the left temporal pole (LTP). However, musical instrument naming appears to rely on a more distributed set of brain regions, possibly including those relating to sensorimotor interactions with such instruments, whereas melody naming relies more exclusively on the LTP.

Conclusions: Retrieval of names for musical melodies appears to rely on similar neuroanatomical correlates as for other proper nouns, namely the LTP. Musical instrument naming seems to rely on a broader network of regions, including the LTP and sensorimotor areas. Overall, melody naming seems to coincide with naming of other proper nouns, while musical instrument naming appears distinct from other categories of nonunique items.


Psychological Science


This work was supported by a Conte Center: [Grant Number NIH 2P50MH094258-06], the James S. McDonnell Foundation: [Grant Number 220020387], and the Spastic Paralysis Research Foundation.

Keywords and Phrases

Anomia; Aphasia; Lesion; Music; Naming

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Article - Journal

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Publication Date

01 Apr 2019