We have written previously about the positive effects music can have on Dementia patients but recent studies now highlight the science behind these outcomes. This US study has found that listening to familiar songs actually activates whole areas of the brain, in particular those related to attention, language and visual memory.
Researchers helped participants of the study choose songs with personal meaning, and they then compiled them into a music playlist on an iPod or portable media player. They then showed the participants and their carers how to use the player and access the songs easily.
The researchers then used an MRI to scan participants’ brains during the times they sat in silence versus the times they listened to their personal playlists. It was found that listening to their chosen soundtracks activated different parts of the participant’s brain – and that it also helped them communicate better.
The perfect gift
If you have family or friends that have declining cognitive function (or have a specific diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Dementia) an iPod or MP3 would make the perfect gift or something that you could loan. Help them to compile their own playlist and tap into their musical memories by:
- Finding songs they listened to during their teens and early 20s
- Asking them about their experiences. For example, did they sing hymns at school or church or did they love a particular movie or musical?
- Searching for songs from a particular genre that would have been popular in their youth
Observe their reaction!
Lastly, be sure to watch their reactions when they listen to the playlist. They may smile or tap their feet or start singing along!
And while music is certainly not a cure, it can help ease anxiety and agitation and give the person a better quality of life, and that’s the most important thing. Music really does have the ability to change our outlook on life. For all of us music shifts our thoughts, our emotions and our energy.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato