Amnesic cellist forgets everything, still remembers how to play his own instrument
This is a pretty incredible story. In 2005, a 62-year-old man was diagnosed with herpes encephalitis, an infection of the brain which destroyed his medial temporal lobes, and with them his explicit memory. He was left with retrograde amnesia (forgetting events in the past) as well as anteretrograde amnesia (losing the ability to form new memories). The really fascinating part comes next, though:
Doctors made their discovery when they tested PM’s ability to recall musical information and found he could identify the scales, rhythms and intervals of pieces they played him. The man went on to score normally on a standard test for musical memory.
But it was later tests that surprised doctors most, when the cellist showed he could learn new pieces of music, even though he failed to remember simple information, such as the layout of his flat, who his doctors were and what medicines he should take.
The scientists conclude that musical memory must be stored elsewhere in the brain. This explanation is boosted by cases of Alzheimer’s- or stroke-induced memory loss in which patients could still recall musical memories.