The Alzheimer patient who sang 'Oh, what a beautiful morning!'
A prize-winning paper suggests that Alzheimer patients may still appreciate music – researchers call for further information from dementia caregiversMedical Hypotheses, an Elsevier publication, has announced the winner of the 2005 David Horrobin Prize for medical theory. Written by Professors Lola Cuddy and Jackie Duffin from Queens University, Canada, the article, "Music, Memory and Alzheimer's disease; is music recognition spared in dementia, and how can it be assessed?" was judged to best embody the spirit of the journal. The £1,000 prize, launched in 2004, is awarded annually and named in honour of Dr. David Horrobin, the renowned researcher, biotechnology expert and founder of Medical Hypotheses, who died in 2003.
The authors adapted standard psychological tests of musical recognition and appreciation to use them even in severely demented people. Their research describes an 84 year old lady with severe Alzheimer's disease who sang old songs from her youth, joined-in when music was played to her, and twisted her face when tunes were played wrongly – sometimes exclaiming 'oh dear'! The researchers concluded that musical abilities seem to be located in brain regions unaffected by Alzheimer's disease and that demented patients might enjoy living in a more musical environment. The researchers have called for further information from members of the public who have noticed musical appreciation in their demented relatives or friends are invited to e-mail their stories to the authors.
Dr. Horrobin was a prolific clinical scientist, and an incisive philosophical thinker who taught and authored numerous papers and books on topics ranging from lipid biochemistry to orthomolecular medicine. While many different medical areas captured Dr. Horrobin's attention, the common thread woven through all of his work was his interest in active scientific debate. Dr. Horrobin believed that untested theories are just as valuable to medicine, and he wanted to leave the lines of communication open for active discussion, discourse and development - particularly in areas where a general consensus has not yet been established. Medical Hypotheses is the only journal that provides an open forum for speculative medical ideas and theories.
"Although his life had many successes, David regarded this journal as one of his major achievements, and this prize seems an appropriate way to celebrate his memory," said Dr. Bruce Charlton, editor of Medical Hypotheses.
The 2005 prize was judged by Sir Roy Calne FRS of Cambridge University, UK. Sir Roy performed the first liver transplant in Europe and introduced the breakthrough anti-rejection drug, cyclosporine A.
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