Language, Music and Dementia (2021-2022)


The question of how language and music are represented in the human brain is one of the more challenging problems of contemporary cognitive neuroscience and neurolinguistics. During the past two decades, advances in neuroimaging technology have produced a greater understanding of higher cognition, including language and music. This project is unique in bringing together behavioral and neuroimaging research on language and music in healthy subjects and patients. 

Project Description

Using a combination of neuroimaging and behavioral data, this project aims to establish the language and music mappings in professional musicians who are either monolingual or multilingual, and to examine the effect of musical training and multilingualism on dementia and cognitive impairment. 

Building on the work of previous teams, this project team will explore the short- and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons who are involved in music and multilingualism in different communities and levels of interaction. The team will administer different versions of a short survey with those communities in mind.

Team members will determine the interactions and interrelations of neurological regions that are critical for linguistic and musical processing, examine the similarities and differences in the audition and reading of musical and linguistic texts, and explore the potential impact of musicianship and multilingualism on behavior in those with cognitive impairment and delaying the behavioral symptoms of dementia.

Team members will also study music and languages through neuroimaging with fMRI.

Anticipated Outputs

Published article(s); research paper


Fall 2021 – Spring 2022

  • Fall 2021: Continued field and lab work; early data analysis
  • Spring 2022: Data collection; data analysis; writing research paper

This Team in the News

Making the Most of Duke, Summer 2021

See related teams, Language, Music and Dementia (2022-2023) and Language, Music and Dementia (2020-2021).


Image: Diffusion tensor imaging of the brain, courtesy of the 2019-2020 project team

Diffusion tensor imaging of the brain.

Team Leaders

  • Edna Andrews, Arts & Sciences-Slavic and Eurasian Studies;Program in Linguistics
  • Cyrus Eierud, Arts & Sciences-Program in Linguistics
  • Neema Sharda, School of Medicine-Medicine:Geriatrics

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Arushi Bhatia, Computer Science (BS), Linguistics (AB2)
  • Audrey Costley, Public Policy Studies (AB), French Studies (AB2)
  • Caroline Gamard, Psychology (BS)
  • Matthew Greenwald, Biology (BS)
  • Paul Kim, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Anika Pawlak
  • Sebastian Sanchez, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Nicole Schwenk
  • Chester Tyson V, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Katherine Wang, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Nina Zhang

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Todd Harshbarger, School of Medicine-Brain Imaging and Analysis Center
  • Catherine Lewis, Arts & Sciences-Slavic and Eurasian Studies
  • Yana Lowry, Duke Focus Program
  • Andrew Michael, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences