William Shakespeare described old age as" second childishness"-no teeth, no eyes, no taste. In the case of taste he may, musically speaking, have been more perceptive than he realised. A paper in Neurology by Giovanni Frisoni and his colleagues at the National Centre for Research and Care of Alzheimers's Disease in Italy, shows that frontotemporal dementia can affect musical desires in ways that suggest a regression ,if not to infancy,then at least to a patient's teens.
Frontotemporal dementia, a disease usually found with old people, is caused, as its name suggests,by damage to the front and sides of the brain. These regions are concerned with speech, and with such"higher"functions as abstract thinking and judgment.
Two of such patients intrigued Dr Frisoni. One was a 68-year-old lawyer, the other a 73-year- old housewife. Both had undamaged memories, but displayed the sorts of defect associated with frontotemporal dementia-a diagnosis that was confrrmed by brain scanning.
About two years after he was first diagnosed, the lawyer, once a classical music lover who re-ferred to pop music as"mere noise" , started listening to the Italian pop band "883". As his command of language and his emotional attachments to friends and family deteriorated, he continued to listen to the band at full volume for many hours a day. The housewife had not even had the lawyer's love of classical music, having never enjoyed music of any sort in the past. But about a year after her diagnosis she became very interested in the songs that her ll-year-old granddaughter was listen ing to.
This kind of change in musical taste was not seen in any of the Alzheimer's patients, and thus appears to be specific to those with frontotemporal dementia. And other studies have remarked on how frontotemporal-dementia patients sometimes gain new talents. Five sufferers who developed artistic abilities are known. And in another case, one woman with the disease suddenly started composing and singing country and western songs.
Dr Frisoni speculates that the illness is causing people to develop a new attitude towards novel experiences, Previous studies of novelty-seeking behaviour suggest that it is managed by the brain'sright frontal lobe. A predominance of the right over the left frontal lobe, caused by damage to the
latter,might thus lead to a quest for new experience. Alternatively, the damage may have affected
some specific nervous system that is needed to appreciate certain kinds of music. Whether that is a
gain or a loss is a different matter. As Dr Frisoni puts it in his article, there is no accounting for
46. The writer quotes Shakespeare mainly to
[A] praise the keen perception of the great English writer.
[B] support Dr. Frisoni 's theory about a disease.
[C] start the discussion on a brain disease.
[D] show the long history of the disease.