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Prog Brain Res. 2015;216:73-89. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2014.11.004. Epub 2015 Jan 23.

Some early cases of aphasia and the capacity to sing.

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Institute for Health & Aging, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA. Electronic address:
Division of Music History, Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music, Chapman University, Orange, CA, USA.


This chapter examines early cases of aphasia that include observations of the capacity to sing. Although the majority of these cases were published in the late nineteenth century, earlier reports exist and provide insights into the early thinking about the capacity to sing in aphasia, a topic that continues to the present day. The observation that some patients with aphasia and limited speech output were able to sing the texts of songs inspired scholars to examine the relationship between music and language. Early ideas about the capacity to sing were provided by well-known neurologists, such as John Hughlings Jackson and Adolf Kussmaul. The work of Herbert Spencer about the origins and function of music heavily influenced Jackson and others in their thinking about aphasia. This work also led to an increased interest in understanding music abilities in persons with aphasia and, later, in the brain mechanisms of music. The chapter provides a background as to why there was an interest in the capacity to sing in persons with aphasia and what influenced early thinking on this topic.


Falret (Jules); Jackson (John Hughlings); Kussmaul (Adolf); Spencer (Herbert); amusia; aphasia; emotion; music cognition; origins of language; origins of music; singing

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