Name the Tune: Left Temporal Polar is he Part of Our Brain We Use for Naming Songs.

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Jasmine Moradi:
Well I’m happy you took that path, because what I love about your research is that it is grounded in the world of psychology, medicine and neuroscience. And in one of your studies you investigated the hypothesis that damage to the left temporal pull in our brain would be associated with impaired naming of famous musical melodies. You have found the part of the brain that let us recognize music. So teach us about your findings and regarding the connection between music, and our memories.
Amy Belfi:
Yeah, so this was like my first real study in grad school. I was very excited, so I based this prediction on previous research from the lab that I was training in where they had found that patients with damage to the left temporal pole. So that’s like if I don’t know, I’m looking at, this is the left side of my brain kind of like here I guess the most anterior front most forward part of the temporal lobe of the brain so patients who have damage to that area had difficulties naming famous persons and famous landmarks.
So if you showed them a picture of a famous person, I don’t know Barack Obama or something, they could say like, oh that was a former President of the United States. They could give you some information about the person, but they wouldn’t be able to provide the name. So naming deficits with, we call them, semantically unique items these items that have a proper name essentially. So they have problems with land with faces problems with naming landmarks if you showed them like St Louis Arch where I live, they would, you know maybe I’ll tell you information about it wouldn’t get the name.
So then I thought well are musical melodies similar to those other categories you know, the melody is named with a proper name, so I thought could we do we find the same finding are these patients? Do they have a deficit in naming melodies? So what we did in this test is we presented individuals with damage to the left temporal pole, a bunch of different melodies these were like you know “Row, row your bow”, “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer”, Twinkle twinkle little star”, things that most people in our culture, the American culture, would recognize and be able to name pretty easily. So we presented these melodies to a bunch of people with no brain damage, a bunch of people with damage to the left temporal pole, and people will damage elsewhere in the brains to control for just the general effects of brain damage.
We want to see if it’s really due to that specific area of damage. So what we found was that the healthy people with intact brains were really good at this test, they could name most of the melodies the people with damage elsewhere in the brain also were really good at the task. But the people with the temporal polar damage were significantly worse at naming the melodies than the other two groups, so it does seem to be the case that the melodies are similar to like famous people or famous places in that they are denoted by a proper noun and that damage to the left temporal pole.
Results in or is associated with deficits and naming melodies and these other categories of items so in that way it seems like melodies are similar to other categories of semantically unique items.
Jasmine Moradi:
Do they recognize the melodies, but they can’t remember the name or the title of it?
Amy Belfi:
Yeah exactly, so that’s that’s another distinction. So what was really interesting is that they could recognize the melody. So we would ask them to test the difference between recognition and naming. Is naming as they have to provide the name recognition, if they can provide any other information that shows they know the melody so in the case of the persons like I gave you the example of Obama, they would say he was a former president that shows recognition, but they couldn’t come up with a name. So it’s a little different with the melodies, but what we ask them to do is continue like humming or singing along with the tune to show recognition, or they could tell us some lyrics and so.
The patients with the temporal pole damage had no issues with that they could recognize the melody they could continue singing it, but they just couldn’t come up with the name, so it’s an issue connecting the melody itself to the name of the melody that there’s this disconnect between the knowledge of the melody with the knowledge of the name of the melody. So it’s I think a really interesting distinction between recognition and naming.