Notes by Howard Gardner
Most psychological theories posit a general capacity like ‘memory'. Were that conception correct, then loss of memory for one type of information would correlate highly with loss of memory for all other kinds of memory.
Ever since the famous patient H.M. was studied, we know that this account of ‘general memory’ is false. Because of extensive surgery done on his temporal lobes, H.M. showed no memory of recent experiences. And yet, when tested on games that he had mastered, he continue to perform well even though he had no linguistic memory of the game.
One of the defining characteristics of an intelligence is that it has its own form of memory. In this article we learn that patients with Alzheimer’s disease, who have little spared spatial memory or linguistic memory, continue to remember and to enjoy music. Neurological researcher Rudolph Tanzi explains, “The pathology that goes all around the music memories areas, but doesn’t touch them…The best way to activate music memory is with the music you love the most”.
And so, drawing on this scientific finding, Tanzi and colleagues have created an app, which plays music that patients of a certain age and experience are likely to have known at one time. And sure enough, this simple device produces both recognition and pleasure in a range of patients whose lives are otherwise greatly impoverished.