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CAN’T GET A SONG OUT OF YOUR HEAD? Don’t complain: it may be a great memory aid. Testing Alzheimer’s patients and the memory-piquing potential of music is the project of Renee Schapiro ’15 (at right) and Denise Evert, a neuro- science and psychology professor.


Schapiro, who once had a summer job at an Alzheimer’s care unit, recalls “one unhappy, unfriendly patient. When I tried playing her some music, she squeezed my hand and her face lit up!” Nurses also noticed improved cognition and com- fort in many patients after a music session.


So this summer Schapiro worked with Evert to bone up on the existing literature and plan her senior thesis research into music and memory. Using an iPod and headphones, Schapiro presents participants with familiar songs from different eras of their lives and then asks for free-recall anecdotes. Evert says, “We want to see whether the time and mood of the song correspond to the memories reported by the partici-


pants—does a happy ’60s song help them retrieve a happy memory from that time in their lives?” Schapiro asks family members or care-givers to help confirm the accuracy of these autobiographical memories. With the summer devoted to prep work, the testing is ongoing this fall. “Just finding the participant and control groups was a huge job,” notes Evert. Schapiro forged relation- ships with hospitals to recruit Alzheimer’s patients who don’t have other medical conditions that could muddy the results, and with assisted-living facilities and other agencies to assem- ble a control group of similar ages and backgrounds. She also sought to limit the variety of venues—hospital rooms, senior centers, homes—to rule out distractions, such as aromas that could evoke memories as powerfully as the music might. After extensive data analysis, the duo would love to tease apart whether it’s the melody, rhyme, rhythm, or words of a song that most affect memory.


14 SCOPE FALL 2014


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