John Libbey Eurotext

Gériatrie et Psychologie Neuropsychiatrie du Vieillissement


Sensorimotor synchronization and non-verbal behaviors in Alzheimer's disease: the influence of social and musical context Volume 18, issue 2, Juin 2020


  • Figure 1
  • Figure 2
  • Figure 3
1 Univ. Lille, EA 4072 - PSITEC - Psychologie : Interactions, Temps, Emotions, Cognition, Lille, France
2 Sciences et technologies de la musique et du son, IRCAM, CNRS, Sorbonne Univ., Paris, France
3 Ghent Univ., IPEM, Department of Arts, Music and Theater Sciences, Ghent, Belgium
4 Unité d’Epilepsie, GHU Pitié-Salpêtrière-Charles Foix, AP-HP, Paris, France
* Correspondance
a Contribution égale des auteurs.

Background. Considering the limited efficacy of pharmacological treatments, the use of musical interventions as non-drug treatment for patients with Alzheimer's disease are strongly recommended. Musical interventions seem to improve the socio-emotional and cognitive functioning of these patients, with benefits increasing when patients are engaged at the motor level. Objective.Our study evaluates the factors that may influence patients’ socio-emotional and motor engagement during musical activities, and measures their sensorimotor synchronization (SMS) abilities. Methods. Each participant was asked to tap with a metronomic or a musical rhythm, in the presence of a musician who performed the task with them. The presence of the musician was real (live condition) or virtual (video condition). Two tempi were tested: a slow tempo (inter-onset interval of 800 ms) and a fast tempo (inter-onset interval of 667 ms). Results. Patients spontaneously produced more rhythmic movements in response to the music than to the metronome. However, the consistency and accuracy of sensorimotor synchronization were better with the metronome than with the music, and also better in video than in live condition. These effects were modulated by the tempo of the auditory sequences. Conclusion. These results confirm the importance of the musical context and social interactions on these different performances. By evaluating in parallel the hand sensorimotor synchronization, spontaneous motor and socio-emotional behaviors with quantitative and controlled measurements, this study validates a multimodal approach to evaluate the patients’ engagement in a musical task. These initial results open up promising application prospects while providing clinicians and researchers a rigorous methodology for understanding the factors that are at the origin of the therapeutic benefits of musical activities on the behavior and well-being of patients and their caregivers.