Project Title: 

The Role of Involuntary Repetitive Music Imagery in Memory Consolidation

Funding detail: 
University of California, Davis
Principal Investigator: 
Petr Janata, PhD
Start year: 
End year: 
Project summary: 

Two experiences with music are particularly prevalent: the vivid reliving of memories triggered by music and having fragments of music repeating, often incessantly, in one's mind. The proposed research examines the relationship of these two phenomena, testing the hypothesis that involuntary repetitive musical imagery (IRMI) helps to consolidate memories not only for the music itself, but also for non-musical information that has been associated with the music. Study participants will be exposed to novel repeating 8-second pieces of music (loops) as they tap along with it in a manner that is pleasing to them. Previous work has shown that this results in IRMI for such musical material. One week following this exposure, memory for the loops is tested. Participants are then exposed to loops played in isolation, faces and biographical information presented in isolation, or loops paired with faces and biographical information, while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of their brain activity. One week later, they undergo fMRI while recalling information in response loops that were previously paired or unpaired with face and biographical information. During both brain imaging sessions, rest periods provide opportunities for IRMI to occur. Analyses of the fMRI data are designed to identify brain areas separately representing the loops and the faces and bios, and to examine the communication between them during the different task conditions, to test the predictions that the coupling of these areas is stronger under conditions that enable binding of the musical and non-musical information, and that the coupling is stronger when those loops for which more IRMI has occurred are presented. Additional analyses are designed to identify loop-specific IRMI episodes during rest. This research develops our understanding of the relationship between two of the most common phenomena that people experience with music, and it provides further insights into mechanisms by which the human brain creates and consolidates memories. It may also help to explain why music serves as a potent cue for retrieving associated memories, even when memory structures of the brain involved in effortful memory retrieval are damaged, as in Alzheimer's disease.

For more information on this project, see their NIH Research Portfolio.