• How Music and Dementia Interact: Can Music Help Memory?

    How Music and Dementia Interact: Can Music Help Memory?

Dementia is a global health problem that affects 50 million people. And with the good – like increased life expectancy – comes some complications – like developing some form of dementia. In fact, certain kinds of dementia may triple by 2050. Fortunately, because of the increased prevalence of cognitive decline, researchers are trying lots of new things and finding some interesting connections. Like music and dementia. Neurologists have long wondered about the connection between memory and music in relation to cognition. So, what is the connection between music and dementia?

If you think it might be time to talk about memory loss, check out this article. If you are wondering about the basics of memory and aging, we have you covered here.

Music and Dementia

Types of Dementia

Common types of dementia helped by music:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Frontotemporal dementia

How Music Helps with Dementia

Research has demonstrated that listening to music or singing can assist with behavioral benefits for people with dementia. Music helps with:

  • Relieving stress 
  • Reducing anxiety and depression
  • Decreasing agitation

Listening to familiar music can yield responses such as smiling, moving, and dancing even when communication is lost. Singing has also demonstrated improved:

  • Behavior
  • Mood
  • Cognitive function

Additionally, playing a musical instrument has been shown to delay the onset of dementia. Some studies also suggest that patients with Alzheimer’s may learn to play new tunes if they know how to play an instrument. In fact, patients with Alzheimer’s who could not play an instrument were repeatedly exposed to new melodies and remembered them for up to eight weeks. This did not occur in patients who were not repeatedly exposed to new melodies.

Behavior and Cognition with Music and Dementia

Many studies claim that music therapy has a positive impact on mood and behavior. But the type of music therapy can yield different results. For example, short-term music intervention can reduce depression and anxiety. Long-term music intervention (over three months) can reduce agitation and irritability. 

Singing has been shown to be effective for verbal memory aid in mild Alzheimer’s cases. In fact, verbal information presented as lyrics in an unfamiliar song were better retained when compared to spoken words.

Benefits of Music Therapy

The purpose of music therapy in individuals with dementia is to address:

  • Emotions
  • Cognitive function
  • Thoughts
  • Memories

It enriches them by increasing:

  • Freedom
  • Stability
  • Organization
  • Focus

However, the study and evaluation of musical benefits are highly individualistic. Care givers, home care staff, and music therapists are essential to giving opinions about the efficacy of music therapy. Additionally, music therapy doesn’t come with the same side effects as medications. In fact, researchers determined five important areas are important to patient response:

  • Interest
  • Response
  • Initiation
  • Involvement
  • Enjoyment

Research shows that the inclusion of music in dementia treatment plans demonstrated a reduction in behavioral and psychological symptoms.

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