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.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, v. 78, no. 3.

© 2020 IOS Press and the authors. All rights reserved.

The authors have purchased from the publisher the right to post this PDF file on their personal, their institute’s, company’s, or funding agency’s Web site and in their repository.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Funding Information

This work was supported by the Iowa State Fraternal Order of Eagles and the Kiwanis Neuroscience Research Foundation.