Every time I hear “Let My Love Open the Door to Your Heart” by Pete Townshend, I am instantly transported to my sister’s wedding – and it’s not just the memory of the song: I remember little details that I would otherwise never think about again, such as the colors of the flowers, how the food tasted, and how I felt that night. One region of my brain is helping to bind together the song, memories, and emotions, according to new research.
This work – featured in a poster at the CNS annual meeting in Boston – extends previous findings about the impact of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in creating these music-evoked memories of our past. It is a region of the brain that tracks musical structure, helps with emotion processing, and supports recall of autobiographical memories.
In the new work, by Amy Belfi and Daniel Tranel of the University of Iowa, researchers tested the role of the mPFC in such musically associated memories by looking at patients whose mPFC was damaged. Participants – some with mPFC damage, some with other brain damage, and some with no damage – listened to 30 popular songs from when they were 15 to 30 years old; they also viewed 30 faces of people who were famous during the same years as the songs. For example, a 35-year-old participant might have heard songs such as “The Macarena” or “Hey Ya” and see faces such as George Bush or Derek Jeter, Belfi explained. The researchers then asked them to describe memories evoked from either the songs or faces.
In the healthy participants and those with non-mPFC damange, music evoked more vivid memories, with more details shared than from the viewing the faces. However, in patients “with mPFC damage, music-evoked memories were not more vivid than face-evoked memories; also, these patients had significantly less vivid music-evoked memories,” according to the poster. “Abnormal music-evoked memories in these individuals may reflect this impaired emotional response,” Belfi and Tranel concluded.
The poster was one of the recipients of “People’s Choice Award” at CNS 2014 in Boston. Attendees at the conference voted in each poster session for their favorite posters to determine the winners. The results for the poster sessions thus far are as follows:
Poster Session A Winner-
“The effect of semantic and relational similarity on the N400 in verbal analogical reasoning” (A150), Ryan J. Brisson, Loyola University Chicago
Poster Session B Winner-
“Cerebro-cerebellar plasticity and biological moton processing” (B30), Arseny Sokolov, Département des Neurosciences Cliniques, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV), Lausanne, Switzerland
Poster Session C Winner-
“Cognitive Control Network contributions to long-term memory guidance of visual spatial attention” (C10), Maya L. Rosen, Boston University
Poster Session D Winner-
“Damage to the medial prefrontal cortex is associated with abnormal music-evoked autobiographical memories” (D96), Amy M. Belfi, University of Iowa
Poster Session E Winner-
“The Effects of Media Violence on the Neural Correlates of Emotional Facial Processing: An ERP Investigation” (E34), Laura Stockdale, Loyola University Chicago
Poster Session F Winner –
“What makes a good learner? Neural evidence for variation in encoding strategies” (F107), William J. Beischel, Loyola University Chicago
Poster Session G Winner-
“The development of phonological processing from the pre-reading to the beginning-reading stage in children with and without a familial risk for developmental dyslexia” (G75), Yingying Wang, Boston Children’s Hospital, Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Developmental Medicine Center, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Winners receive $125, generously provided via sponsors Nature Communications and Elsevier.
-Lisa M.P. Munoz