An fMRI comparison between younger and older adults of neural activity associated with recognition of familiar melodies

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Sikka, Ritu
musical semantic memory , sparse sampling , fMRI , musical memory , melody processing , superior temporal gyrus , neural basis of musical memory , inferior frontal gyrus , effects of aging on musical semantic memory , musical lexicon , aging , familiarity , familiar melodies , semantic memory , recognition
We investigated age-related differences in neural activation associated with recognition of familiar melodies, a process that requires retrieval from musical semantic memory and leads to a feeling of familiarity. We used sparse sampling fMRI to determine the neural correlates of melody processing and familiarity by comparing activation when listening to melodies versus signal-correlated noise, and to familiar versus unfamiliar melodies, respectively. Overall, activity in the bilateral superior temporal gyrus correlated well with melody processing. Familiarity was associated with several frontal regions (bilateral inferior frontal gyrus, superior frontal gyrus, and precentral gyrus; left insular cortex), right superior temporal gyrus; left supramarginal gyrus and cingulate gyrus; bilateral putamen and thalamus; cerebellum and brainstem. No significant differences were found between younger and older adults for either melody processing or familiarity based activation. Assessment of familiarity-related group differences using less stringent criteria identified plausible areas; greater activation was seen bilaterally in the superior temporal gyrus in younger adults and in some left parietal regions in older adults. This study adds to the knowledge of musical semantic memory with results based on a large sample (N = 40) that includes older adults. Our findings for activation associated with melody processing and familiarity support some, but not all, previous results of related studies. We were unable to find conclusive evidence of age-related differences in neural correlates of musical semantic memory, while also being the first study (to the best of our knowledge) to search for these differences.
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