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Re: Musical abilities are among the last to be lost in cases of brain damage?
Dear Robert, Isabelle, Thomas, Brian, Dennis and others,
Thank you for all informative responses.
It was my mistake to omit the word "often" in Sacks' sentence. The subject of this discussion thread should be "Musical abilities are often among the last to be lost in cases of brain damage?"
As indicated by Robert, the interesting observations Sacks refers to are good starting points to develop more fine-grained hypotheses. I think I should mention why I ask this question.
Anton Neumayr (1997) discussed Czech composer Bedrich Smetana's syphilis, and how hearing disturbance and mental changes affected his compositions. It is interesting to note that in the final stage of syphilis, Smetana suffered from optical / acoustic hallucinations and memory disorder, but still composed fragments of opera "Viola". Anton Neumayr wrote:
"Surprisingly, this torso of his last opera shows hardly any signs of his confusion, although at this point in time he was, with his creative activity, already at the edge of insanity." (Music and Medicine. Vol. 3, Chopin, Smetana, Tchaikovsky, Mahler: Notes on Their Lives, Works, and Medical Histories. Trans. by David J. Parent, p186, 1997)
This recalls me several cases of brain damage mentioned by Sacks. However, the preserved musical abilities mentioned by Sacks are performing and perception. I wonder if there is any report of preserved composing ability in cases of widespread brain damage or dementia.
Institute of Applied Mechanics, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
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