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Music and the Brain of an Alzheimer’s Patient

January 30th, 2015 · 2 Comments · how the brain works, music and alzheimer, music and the brain

The brain of the patient with Alzheimer’s disease is affected in a manner that has been described as being filled with tangled, plaque-laden dendrites.  Although, I believe that we are closer to a cure than ever before, it still stands to be a major disease with us aging baby boomers.

Research is being conducted in universities and hospitals around the world and there are many new possible correlations between life-style issues and later development of Alzheimer’s disease.  Dietetic links, environmental links, emotional links; all are being looked at under the microscope and considered as something could possibly lead to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

So how does music positively affect the brain of the Alzheimer’s patient?  Here are five ways that a recent article on put forth:

  • 1. Music evokes emotions that bring memories.

    Music can evoke emotion in even the most advanced of Alzheimer’s patients. NeurologistOliver Sacks says that, “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory… it brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.” By pairing music with every day activities, patients can develop a rhythm that helps them to the recall the memory of that activity, improving cognitive ability over time.

  • 2. Musical aptitude and appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in dementia patients.

    Linda Maguire, lead author on the study wrote, “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s.” Because these two abilities remain long after other abilities have passed, music is an excellent way to reach beyond the disease and reach the person.

  • 3. Music can bring emotional and physical closeness.

    In the later stages of dementia, patients often lose the ability to share emotions with caregivers. Through music, as long as they are ambulatory, they can often dance. Dancing can lead to hugs, kisses and touching which brings security and memories.

  • 4. Singing is engaging.

    The singing sessions in the study engaged more than just the brain and the area related to singing. As singing activated the left side of the brain, listening to music sparked activity in the right and watching the class activated visual areas of the brain. With so much of the brain being stimulated, the patients were exercising more mind power than usual.

  • 5. Music can shift mood, manage stress and stimulate positive interactions.

    The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has an entire web page dedicated to music therapy in Alzheimer’s patients. They say that, “When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements.” This is because music requires little to no mental processing, so singing music does not require the cognitive function that is not present in most dementia patients.

  • For more information about this, see


2 Comments so far ↓

  • Ron Cooper

    My mother’s life was much happier with music. She was a song leader in her Alzheimer’s ward and had a solo part in the Christmas pageant. Many residents stopped her in the hall to sing their favorite song. She said, “If you don’t use music, you lose music. I’d rather sing than sleep.”

  • Dr. Alice H. Cash

    What a great story, Ron. I’m so sorry that I only just found this wonderful comment. And I looked at your blog too! Thank you for the beautiful work that you do!!


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