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Tony Bennett's Alzheimer's Diagnosis Again Puts Spotlight On Link Between Music, Memory

IRVINE (CBSLA) — On Monday, it was revealed that legendary singer Tony Bennett has been battling Alzheimer's disease for more than four years.

Tony Bennett In Concert - Austin, TX
AUSTIN, TX - APRIL 29: Singer Tony Bennett performs in concert at ACL Live on April 29, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage)

But, despite the debilitating diagnosis, Bennett's wife Susan said the 18-time Grammy winner does not need cue cards to sing his classics.

The link between music and memory is something scientists and doctors at UC Irvine are continuing to study at UCI Mind — an institute for memory impairments and neurological disorders that's at the forefront of Alzheimer's disease research.

"It turns out that, not surprisingly, the brain handles different kinds of information differently, and music is different from language, from recognizing words, and other things and things around us," Dr. David Sultzer, director of clinical research at UCI Mind, said. "So how the brain works with music is different, and it appears to be less affected by the Alzheimer's process than for example written words or memory for information that we learned yesterday."

Back in 2012, CBS Los Angeles spoke with music superstar Glen Campbell after he learned he had Alzheimer's disease.

Soon after his initial diagnosis, the then 75-year-old shared that words had become difficult to remember at times, but his music still came easy, which is why he and his family made the decision to go out on tour and make a documentary about it.

It's a phenomenon that Sultzer said has a scientific basis.

"If you learn new words that are associated with a song, singing a song with words, your ability to remember those words is better when it's linked to music than it is if, for example, you've read those words on a page and tried to learn them," he said.

Campbell, best known for his hit song "Rhinestone Cowboy," died in 2017 at the age of 81.

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