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Front Neurosci



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Several studies of semantic memory in non-musical domains involving recognition of items from long-term memory have shown an age-related shift from the medial temporal lobe structures to the frontal lobe. However, the effects of aging on musical semantic memory remain unexamined. We compared activation associated with recognition of familiar melodies in younger and older adults. Recognition follows successful retrieval from the musical lexicon that comprises a lifetime of learned musical phrases. We used the sparse-sampling technique in fMRI to determine the neural correlates of melody recognition by comparing activation when listening to familiar vs. unfamiliar melodies, and to identify age differences. Recognition-related cortical activation was detected in the right superior temporal, bilateral inferior and superior frontal, left middle orbitofrontal, bilateral precentral, and left supramarginal gyri. Region-of-interest analysis showed greater activation for younger adults in the left superior temporal gyrus and for older adults in the left superior frontal, left angular, and bilateral superior parietal regions. Our study provides powerful evidence for these musical memory networks due to a large sample (N = 40) that includes older adults. This study is the first to investigate the neural basis of melody recognition in older adults and to compare the findings to younger adults.

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