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Is music a memory booster in normal aging? The influence of emotion

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Age-related differences in episodic memory have been explained by a decrement in strategic encoding implementation. It has been shown in clinical populations that music can be used during the encoding stage as a mnemonic strategy to learn verbal information. The effectiveness of this strategy remains equivocal in older adults (OA). Furthermore, the impact of the emotional valence of the music used has never been investigated in this context. Thirty OA and 24 young adults (YA) learned texts that were either set to music that was positively or negatively valenced, or spoken only. Immediate and delayed recalls were measured. Results showed that: (i) OA perform worse than YA in immediate and delayed recall; (ii) sung lyrics are better remembered than spoken ones in OA, but only when the associated music is positively-valenced; (iii) this pattern is observed regardless the retention delay. These findings support the benefit of a musical encoding on verbal learning in healthy OA and are consistent with the positivity effect classically reported in normal aging. Added to the potential applications in daily life, the results are discussed with respect to the theoretical hypotheses of the mechanisms underlying the advantage of musical encoding.
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Keywords: Mnemonics; positivity bias; recall; socio-emotional selectivity theory; verbal learning

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Equipe Neuropsychologie du Vieillissement (EA 4468), Institut de Psychologie, Université Paris Descartes, Boulogne-Billancourt, France

Publication date: November 26, 2018

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