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Music and Dementia: How Music Can Help You Feel Better

Imagine a special secret of music – it can actually make people with dementia feel better. Many different studies, like those by Garrido et al. (2017), Jernigan (2021), Moawad et al. (2023), and Thaut & Hömberg (2016), have shown that music can make a big difference. Whether it's played live or recorded, music can help reduce problems like feeling agitated, worried, or sad. And that's not all – it can even help people speak better.

But there's something even more magical about music. It can do something special in our brains. It can make us move and feel happy by releasing special chemicals like dopamine and endorphins. It's like a mood-boosting magic wand! Special parts of our brain, like the frontal lobe, temporal lobe, and amygdala, all work together when we listen to music. Music is truly amazing!


Music Is Different for Everyone


But wait! Just like everyone has their favorite flavor of ice cream, not all music works the same way for people with dementia. Some people might find music very helpful, while others might not feel the same. This could depend on how the disease is affecting them and what their personal experiences are. Even hearing problems can play a role, especially when it comes to Alzheimer's development.

There's an important thing to understand: dementia is different for everyone. As Cuddy et al. (2020), Baird et al. (2020), and Garrido et al. (2017) say, music has different effects on each person. It depends on how the disease is progressing, who the person is, and what they've been through. Even hearing loss and Alzheimer's can affect each other, showing how important our senses and brain health are.


Blending Science and Melodies: A Challenge and a Solution


Using music as therapy for dementia isn't as simple as pressing play on your favorite song. There's a challenge – not all experts agree on how to use music for dementia. Some say there should be strict rules to follow, while others think it's more about using what feels right. This makes it hard to compare different studies and get a clear answer. But by mixing science and real-life experience, we might find the best way to use music and help patients.


Neurologic Music Therapy


In the last 20 years, a new kind of music therapy has emerged, called Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT). This special therapy uses music to "train" the brain. The experts who do this are a bit like music scientists – they know a lot about how the brain works. They use music to help people do exercises that improve their brain (Neurologic Music Therapy Service of Arizona, n.d.; Thaut & Hömberg, 2016).


A Bright Future


Science and music can work together to help people with dementia. The author believes that if we use scientific knowledge to create soothing music, we can really make a difference for those facing dementia. NMT shows us that science, research, and music can be perfect partners, working in harmony.


References


BAIRD, A., GARRIDO, S. AND TAMPLIN, J. (2020) Music and dementia: From cognition to therapy. New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press.


CUDDY, L., BELLEVILLE, S. & MOUSSARD, A. 2020. Music and the Aging Brain, Academic Press.


GARRIDO, S., DUNNE, L., CHANG, E., PERZ, J., STEVENS, C. J. & HAERTSCH, M. 2017. The use of music playlists for people with dementia: A critical synthesis. Journal of Alzheimer's disease, 60, 1129-1142.


JERNIGAN, C. (2021) The science behind the sound (music therapy and our brains), Incadence Music Therapy Blog. Available at: https://www.incadence.org/post/the-science-behind-the-sound-music-therapy-and-our-brains?utm_source=pocket_saves (Accessed: 28 April 2023).


MOAWAD, , H., Berry, J. and Akers , A.S. (2023) Endorphins: Effects and how to boost them, Medical News Today. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320839 (Accessed: 28 April 2023).


NEUROLOGIC MUSIC THERAPY SERVICES OF ARIZONA (no date) NMTSA. Available at: https://www.nmtsa.org/ (Accessed: 18 May 2023).


THAUT, M. AND HÖMBERG, V. (2016) Handbook of Neurologic Music therapy. Oxford, Uk: Oxford University Press.


THAUT, M. AND HÖMBERG, V. (2016) Handbook of Neurologic Music therapy. Oxford, Uk: Oxford University Press.






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