Music and dementia

“Music is therapy. Music moves people. It connects people in ways no other medium can. It pulls heart strings. It acts as medicine.”


Music has been part of different civilisations from time immemorial. In different cultures, different instruments have been used to produce music. Whether it was by playing drum, flute, violin, piano or sitar.

But what is music? It is an art of the production and collection of coordinated sound/s. Music has been used as a form of entertainment as it relaxes the mind and the body is less stressed.

Music has the power to create emotions, make us dance and makes us happy. Similarly, people suffering from dementia remain inactive and unable to communicate but studies have shown that if they listen or dance to music, the patients themselves begin to sing to the tune and dance in any way they can.

The Music & Memory Inc. is a non-profit organization that helps in training healthcare professionals in personalizing music playlists on iPods for dementia patients. The success was due to the posting on YouTube of a senior, Henry who was given an iPod to listen to music from his generation. It is part of a documentary titled Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory.

How is it possible, that a simple activity as listening to music gives such amazing result? A new field of research, neuromusicology has opened up which studies the effect of music on the nervous system. Research has shown that musicians have better connected and more sensitive brains. Therefore, not only listening but even playing musical instruments helps better.

Music causes the release of brain chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin, both of which create a better mood and cause more social interactions. Music has been proven to be more beneficial to seniors than other leisure activities. It may not completely unlock all memories but it encourages the patient to be more active.

Even in ordinary life, we all listen to music whether we are relaxing, exercising or working. It helps ease the stress and relax the muscles and make us happier. When we are in a good mood, our brain automatically functions better. Even if music can’t cure dementia, it can improve the health condition of seniors suffering from dementia.   

Garima Nabh is the founder of New Age Magazine.

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