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Brain. 1980 Jun;103(2):367-92.

Music and language: musical alexia and agraphia.


Two aphasic right-handed professional musicians with left hemispheric lesions had disturbed musical function, especially musical alexia and agraphia. In Case 1 aphasia was of transcortical sensory type, with severe agraphia and decreased comprehension of written words, although she could match them with pictures. Except for reading and writing, musical ability was normal; she could sing in five languages. Musical alexia and agraphia affected pitch symbols more than rhythm. Case 2 had conduction aphasia and severe expressive amusia, especially for rhythm. Although his language alexia and agraphia were milder than Case 1's, his musical alexia and agraphia were more severe, affecting rhythm as much as pitch. In neither patient were those aspects of musical notation either closest to verbal language or most dependent upon temporal (sequential) processing maximally impaired. These cases are consistent with the literature in suggesting that the presence or absence of aphasia or of right or left hemispheric damage fails to predict the presence, type, or severity of amusia, including musical alexia and agraphia. The popular notion that receptive amusia follows lesions of the language-dominant temporal lobe, whereas expressive amusia follows non-dominant frontal lobe damage, is an over-simplification, as is the view that increasing musical sophistication causes a shift of musical processing from the right hemisphere to the left.

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