Jean-Martin Charcot’s role in the 19th century study of music aphasia
- Publisher: Oxford Journals
Jean-Martin Charcot (1825–93) was a well-known French neurologist. Although he is widely recognized for his discovery of several neurological disorders and his research into aphasia, Charcot’s ideas about how the brain processes music are less well known. Charcot discussed the music abilities of several patients in the context of his ‘Friday Lessons’ on aphasia, which took place at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris in 1883–84. In his most comprehensive discussion about music, Charcot described a professional trombone player who developed difficulty copying music notation and playing his instrument, thereby identifying a new isolated syndrome of music agraphia without aphasia. Because the description of this case was published only in Italian by one of his students, Domenico Miliotti, there has been considerable confusion and under-acknowledgement of Charcot’s ideas about music and the brain. In this paper, we describe Charcot’s ideas regarding music and place them within the historical context of the growing interest in the neurological underpinnings of music abilities that took place in the 1880s.
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