13 October - Why Music? The Key to Memory
Introducing the topics of her own research, which she discussed on BBC Radio 3 programmes over the weekend, Dr Catherine Loveday said: “We all know that a moment of music can take us back to a really special time and place. I’ve always been interested in music and I’ve been studying memory for the last 25 years, so I couldn’t help but bring the two together.”
14 October - Why Music? The Key to Memory
On the programme Dr Loveday revealed the results of a large online survey carried out in collaboration with BBC Radio 3 and analysed with the help of Professor Tom Buchanan, also an academic at the University of Westminster. This survey revealed that even highly educated classical music listeners are influenced by their ‘reminiscence bump’.
Catherine explained what the ‘reminiscence bump’ was: “We know that people find it easier to go back to memories from their teenage and early adulthood time in every way but also that seems to shape people’s preference to some extent, so when you ask people for their favourite books, their favourite films, their favourite pop music, they would tend to choose them from that period of time. We know that effect exists and I was interested to see what extent that might shape the opinions of people who are very discerning classical music listeners.”
14 October - Beyond Memory
Catherine Loveday introduced some extraordinary cases, which prove the existing and extremely interesting link between the human brain, memory and music.
One of them was Clive Wearing, whose amnesia is one of the most extreme cases ever recorded. He had an encephalitis, a brain infection which left him with a very severe amnesia. “Every single moment is like a fresh awakening with a sense of complete blackness behind him and in front of him,” Catherine explained.
However, his wife discovered that despite this, his musical memory could still function – he could still read, play and conduct music.
Explaining what this means for the brain, Catherine said: “It tells us that musical memories are different and in some ways separate from other aspects of our memories. In his case it can be argued that music does not require history – he can just be in the music at that moment and the memory plays its part.”