Preserved processing of musical structure in a person with agrammatic aphasia


Evidence for shared processing of structure (or syntax) in language and in music conflicts with neuropsychological dissociations between the two. However, while harmonic structural processing can be impaired in patients with spared linguistic syntactic abilities (Peretz, I. (1993). Auditory atonalia for melodies. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 10, 21–56. doi:10.1080/02643299308253455), evidence for the opposite dissociation–preserved harmonic processing despite agrammatism–is largely lacking. Here, we report one such case: HV, a former musician with Broca’s aphasia and agrammatic speech, was impaired in making linguistic, but not musical, acceptability judgments. Similarly, she showed no sensitivity to linguistic structure, but normal sensitivity to musical structure, in implicit priming tasks. To our knowledge, this is the first non-anecdotal report of a patient with agrammatic aphasia demonstrating preserved harmonic processing abilities, supporting claims that aspects of musical and linguistic structure rely on distinct neural mechanisms.

Neurocase, 22, 505-511.
L. Robert Slevc
Principal Investigator