Music and Memory - Treating Alzheimer's and Dementia
The uplifting power of music is becoming a significant therapeutic tool in improving the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients as music can have a lasting effect on a person’s attitude, life and events. A favorite tune, album or playlist can brighten up a dull job or enhance a fun activity.
The nature of Alzheimer’s Disease, and related cognitive impairment, is disruptive to household, medical routines, and relationships. Mood swings, aggressive behavior, wandering, and failure to cope with the requirements of medications are all struggles patients and caregivers contend with. In the last few years, research has shown playing or even listening to music can have powerful and positive effect on Alzheimer patients.
Recently the Boston University School of Medicine, and the Vanderbilt Memory Disorders Research Lab have revealed Music can elevate a patient’s mood, aid in the recall of personal memories and relationships, and even assist in establishing new memories for patients with Alzheimer’s.
Studies have shown playing a familiar instrument, or listening to familiar music put patients into a relaxed state of mind, allowing them to recall pleasant events associated with the music.
Along with altering mood and bringing up old memories, the studies have also found listening to music with someone can help a patient form new memories of the event — overcoming one of the earliest and most frustrating challenges Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers face.
The Boston University study also looked at how the brain reacts during the process of learning music. Scans showed unexpected involvement of brain areas that were able to circumvent traditional memory centers. Patients who memorized lyrics to songs by singing them, had a significantly higher retention for the new information than those simply reading the words. It has been hypothesized these techniques could even be used to give patients mental “triggers” which could be used to time dosages, and form new routines around their homes.
The possibility of music helping to unlock memories for patients is exciting, and this process of learning and retaining new memory is one of the major steps needed to help patients cope with the disease, and provide an opportunity to form new routines.
Preliminary studies are hopeful new memory formation is a step towards overcoming the disease. Early data suggests that no matter the larger goals for Music therapy right now it is a useful and easy tool for improving quality of life in those suffering with Alzheimer’s.
As a caregiver the best thing to do is find music patients enjoy and allow it to brighten the day.