Members of the NAR-Kolleg




Dr. Elke Ahlsdorf
(correspondend member)





Music related autobiographical memories and their individual meaning

For most people, music has an important meaning in their everyday life. Although it is secondary whether music is listened to or actively played. Music can have a vital importance in the memory of personal experiences, in the so called autobiographical memory. When looking closer at these aspects, a lot of questions arise.

  • What experiences were made and are being made with music or playing music?
  • What incidents in relation to music can people remember?
    Is there a difference between these music-related memories and  the autobiographical memories of other incidents?
  • How are these memories differentiated in their phenomenology, that is in their appearance?
  • What emotions, maybe even ambivalent ones, are connected to these memories?
  • Can music support the direct memory of incidents?

In the interdisciplinary collaboration with the NAR I would like to research the relevance of memories on music in the course of life and its well-being for the elderly. There I emanate from my own research of the autobiographical memory of the elderly.
For answering the above mentioned questions, neuropsychology, developmental psychology and musicology are integrated. The research pursues two objectives:

  1. Of vital importance are the autobiographical aspects of music and memory. On that, qualitative interviews will be held. In order to get a differentiated picture, elderly of different cohorts are being questioned. We will try to get answers on the different questions on music experience. Also of interest are the personal significant memories connected to the musicians life. This approach aims primarily at the knowledge and the narrowing down of the subject area and its possible facets.
  2. In a second step, on the foundation of these fundamentals, a questionnaire for an extensive analysis of music connected autobiographical memories shall be developed. The questionnaire can be used for fundamental research on the one hand.  There are only a few quantitative researches on music and memory even though overall, the subject seems to have a high importance. The questionnaire can on the other hand be used as a therapeutical instrument to get access to the individual coherence of music and memory in the experience of specific people, e.g. by hearing an old hit song an older person remembers his youth where he spent enjoyable hours of dancing. This knowledge can possibly be used to specifically encourage memorizing personal important experiences through music. In this way a stimulating re-interpretation of an individual biography can be encouraged and an improvement of the quality of life can be achieved. 


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Publications (born as Schallies)

  • Sattler, C., Söthe-Röck, A., Ahlsdorf, E. & Schröder, J. (zur Veröffentlichung eingereicht). Musizieren und Musikhören im Lebenslauf älterer Menschen. Zeitschrift für Gerontologie und Geriatrie.
  • Ahlsdorf, E. (im Druck) Kognitives Training bei leichter kognitiver Beeinträchtigung und Demenz. In Wahl, H.W. & Tesch-Römer, C. (Hrsg.) Gerontologie in Schlüsselbegriffen. Kohlhammer
  • Ahlsdorf, E. (2010). Potenziale des Alters im klinisch-psychologischen Kontext: Autobiografisches Gedächtnis, Sinnerfahrung und Musik. In: Kruse, A. (Hrsg.) Potenziale im Altern. Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, S. 343-357.
  • Ahlsdorf, E. (2009). Differenzielle Untersuchungen zum Autobiographischen Gedächtnis. Hamburg: Dr. Kovac.
  • Ahlsdorf, E. & Schröder, J. (in Druck). Kognitiver Status bei Demenz. In: Reuschenbach, B. & Mahler, C. (Hrsg.) Handbuch pflegerelevanter Assessmentinstrumente.
  • Ahlsdorf, E., Seidl, U. & Schröder, J. (zur Veröffentlichung eingereicht). Autobiographisches Gedächtnis im Alter und Depression. Eine Differenzierte Untersuchung mit dem Bielefelder Autobiographischen Gedächtnis Inventar (BAGI). Zeitschrift für Gerontologie und Geriatrie.
  • Plessner, H., Betsch, T., Schallies, E., & Schwieren, C. (2007). Automatic online formation of implicit attitudes toward politicians as a basis for intuitive voting behavior. In: H. Plessner, H., Betsch, C. & Betsch, T. (Eds.). Intuition in judgment and decision making. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 107-117.
  • Seidl, U., Ahlsdorf, E., & Schröder, J. (2007). Störungen des Autobiographischen Gedächtnisses bei Alzheimer Demenz. Zeitschrift für Gerontologie und Geriatrie, 20 (1), 47-52.
  • Seidl, U., Ahlsdorf, E., & Toro, P. (2007). Die leichte kognitive Beeinträchtigung- epidemiologische, neuropsychologische und neurobiologische Aspekte. Journal of Preventive Medicine, 3, 198-205
  • Plessner, H. & Schallies, E. (2005). Judging the cross on rings: A matter of achieving shape constancy. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19, 1145-1156.
  • Betsch, T., Plessner, H. & Schallies, E. (2004). The value-account model of attitude formation. In: Maio, G.R. & Haddock, G. (Eds.). Contemporary perspectives on the psychology of attitudes. Hove: Psychology Press, pp. 252-273.

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1998 - 2003 Studies of psychology at the university of Heidelberg. Practical training at the "Psychotherapeutische Praxisstelle" of the university of Bern, Switzerland.
Diploma thesis about "Quality of life in old age. Person-environment fit of alone living very old" at the former German Centre for Research on Aging
2003 Diploma in Psychology
2003 - 2014 Research assistant at the section of gerontopsychiatry, psychiatric hospital, University of Heidelberg
7/2008 - 2009 Member of the NAR Kolleg, Heidelberg University
5/2009 Promotion über das Autobiographische Gedächtnis bei Prof. Dr. Johannes Schröder, Sektion Gerontopsychiatrie, Psychiatrische Universitätsklinik Heidelberg













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Latest Revision: 2021-09-20