Sensitivity to musical denotation and connotation in organic patients

H. Gardner, J. Silverman, G. Denes, C. Semenza, A. K. Rosenstiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Musical segments convey at least two kinds of meaning: the 'real-world' events referred to by lyrics and by occasions of performance constitute musical denotation: the formal expressive patterns suggested by such constituents as pitch, timbre, and intensity constitute musical connotation. To ascertain sensitivity to these musical facets among brain-injured patients, tests assessing appreciation of musical denotation and connotation were administered to unilaterally brain-injured subjects in the United States and Italy. On the musical denotation test, right hemisphere patients excelled on items where knowledge of lyrics was required; in contrast, anterior aphasics surpassed both posterior aphasics and right hemisphere patients on items where acquaintance with lyrics was unnecessary. On the musical connotation test, right hemisphere patients performed relatively better in matching sound patterns to temporally sequenced designs than to gestalten; these patients also performed better than left hemisphere patients on a number of other dimensions. The relatively high performance of posterior aphasics on the connotation test, along with the lack of correlation between connotative and denotative scores received by aphasic patients, suggest a behavioral and neurological dissociation between the two forms of musical sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-256
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1977

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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