Hooked on a Feeling: Influence of Brief Exposure to Familiar Music on Feelings of Emotion in Individuals with Alzheimer's Disease

Alaine E. Reschke-Hernández, Amy M. Belfi, Edmarie Guzmán-Vélez, Daniel Tranel, Amy Clements-Cortes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Research has indicated that individuals with Alzheimer's-type dementia (AD) can experience prolonged emotions, even when they cannot recall the eliciting event. Less is known about whether music can modify the emotional state of individuals with AD and whether emotions evoked by music linger in the absence of a declarative memory for the eliciting event. Objective: We examined the effects of participant-selected recorded music on self-reported feelings of emotion in individuals with AD, and whether these feelings persisted irrespective of declarative memory for the emotion-inducing stimuli. Methods: Twenty participants with AD and 19 healthy comparisons (HCs) listened to two 4.5-minute blocks of self-selected music that aimed to induce either sadness or happiness. Participants reported their feelings at baseline and three times post-induction and completed recall and recognition tests for the music selections after each induction. Results: Participants with AD had impaired memory for music selections compared to HCs. Both groups reported elevated sadness and negative affect after listening to sad music and increased happiness and positive affect after listening to happy music, relative to baseline. Sad/negative and happy/positive emotions endured up to 20 minutes post-induction. Conclusion: Brief exposure to music can induce strong and lingering emotions in individuals with AD. These findings extend the intriguing phenomenon whereby lasting emotions can be prompted by stimuli that are not remembered declaratively. Our results underscore the utility of familiar music for inducing emotions in individuals with AD and may ultimately inform strategies for using music listening as a therapeutic tool with this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1019-1031
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank all the participants and their care partners, without whom this research would not have been possible, and the Alzheimer’s Association Iowa Chapter for assistance with recruitment. The authors thank Mónica Acevedo-Molina, Kuan-Hua Chen, Kathy Jones, Jasmine Leahy, Kenneth Manzel, Ash-wathi Nair, Meghan Ross, Sawyer Small, Morgane Tatchoum, Tiffany Theulen, and Keara Turkington for their assistance on this project; Nicholas Jones for his technical assistance; Virginia Driscoll for her guidance on audiometric screening in older adults; and Joel Bruss for his input on stereo music system setup and speaker donation. This work was supported by the Iowa State Fraternal Order of Eagles and the Kiwanis Neuroscience Research Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 - IOS Press and the authors. All rights reserved.


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • dementia
  • emotion
  • feelings
  • memory
  • music

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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