The Importance of Being Familiar: The Role of Semantic Knowledge in the Activation of Emotions and Factual Knowledge from Music in the Semantic Variant of Primary Progressive Aphasia.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


J Alzheimers Dis, Volume 85, Issue 1, p.115-128 (2022)


Aged, Aphasia, Primary Progressive, Atrophy, Case-Control Studies, Emotions, Female, Humans, Knowledge, Language Tests, Male, Memory Disorders, Mental Status Schedule, Middle Aged, Models, Theoretical, Music, Recognition, Psychology, Semantics


<p><b>BACKGROUND: </b>The role of semantic knowledge in emotion recognition remains poorly understood. The semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia (svPPA) is a degenerative disorder characterized by progressive loss of semantic knowledge, while other cognitive abilities remain spared, at least in the early stages of the disease. The syndrome is therefore a reliable clinical model of semantic impairment allowing for testing the propositions made in theoretical models of emotion recognition.</p><p><b>OBJECTIVE: </b>The main goal of this study was to investigate the role of semantic memory in the recognition of basic emotions conveyed by music in individuals with svPPA.</p><p><b>METHODS: </b>The performance of 9 individuals with svPPA was compared to that of 32 control participants in tasks designed to investigate the ability: a) to differentiate between familiar and non-familiar musical excerpts, b) to associate semantic concepts to musical excerpts, and c) to recognize basic emotions conveyed by music.</p><p><b>RESULTS: </b>Results revealed that individuals with svPPA showed preserved abilities to recognize familiar musical excerpts but impaired performance on the two other tasks. Moreover, recognition of basic emotions and association of musical excerpts with semantic concepts was significantly better for familiar than non-familiar musical excerpts in participants with svPPA.</p><p><b>CONCLUSION: </b>Results of this study have important implications for theoretical models of emotion recognition and music processing. They suggest that impairment of semantic memory in svPPA affects both the activation of emotions and factual knowledge from music and that this impairment is modulated by familiarity with musical tunes.</p>

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