The power of music in memories

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Music can provoke distant memories and feelings that may be fleeting

Can the power of music help provide stronger connections for people diagnosed with dementia?

An SBS article has recently reported on the Music & Memory, program, a captivating idea developed by US social worker Dan Cohen and brought to Australia in 2015 through the Arts Health Institute.

This program, which was also the subject of a 2014 documentary Alive Inside, focuses on creating personalised playlists on iPods and playing this music to people who have chronic cognitive and physical impairment, including those with dementia.

The results have been outstanding, and as suggested by Dr Maggie Haertsch, CEO of the Arts Health Institute, “the music awakens a part of the brain not impacted by dementia and evokes responses, such as singing and movement, and brief moments of reconnection with loved ones.”

The beautiful stories from the Alive Inside documentary, as well as from those in the program, have been positive to the point that the person affected with cognitive impairment has “changes in mood that can last several hours and alertness immediately following [a listening session] can generally last around 20 minutes, but everyone is different and responds differently.” On occasion there has also been negative reactions, but “it might be because we haven’t found the right music for them yet”.

A study on the impact of musical therapy for dementia patients was carried out in 2015 by the Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. It provided a positive response, citing that the therapy “improved participants’ dementia symptoms and general wellbeing, while also leading to a decline in occupational disruptiveness to staff.”

Read the full story on SBS
Music awakens memory in those with dementia
Lisa Cugnetto, SBS, 12 January 2016