Music & Memory: UK Campaign Spotlights Music As Support For Dementia

Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay
Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay

Music is being emphasized as a support for people living with dementia in a new campaign across the UK.

Alzheimer’s Research UK is a research-focused charity, and they have partnered with another organization, Music for Dementia, for the national campaign, which includes a new study.

Music and dementia

As dementia progresses, the patient’s quality of life is affected by diminished capacity and often drastic changes when it comes to intellectual and emotional functions. Behaviors change, and socializing can be difficult.

There are drug therapies available that can ameliorate some of the symptoms, but many have limited effects. The results of several studies show that music, in combination with pharmaceutical therapy, may actually slow down the decline in cognitive abilities and behavioral changes.

Researchers at the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Toledo, Spain conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of several existing studies on the effectiveness of using music in the treatment of dementia. The results were published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine in 2020.

The details

The analysis considered the results of eight research studies, each of them assessed for data quality and results. The researchers found that using music therapy for living patients with dementia resulted in changes to specific issues.

  • There was an improvement in cognitive function;
  • There was an improvement in the quality of life and long-term depression after treatment.

The researchers conclude that music has powerful potential in the treatment of dementia, along with other available therapies. The next step, they emphasized, is to develop specific therapies with results in mind.

The new British campaign is looking to make that next connection.

New research

As part of the new push, Alzheimer’s Research UK is looking for volunteers with dementia (and their caregivers) to sign up to Join Dementia Research to contribute to ongoing research. A new study will include results from 1,000 volunteers, and will explore whether listening to music tailored for the individual can bring about improvements in psychological symptoms and behavior.

  • They’ll supply playlists curated by scientists and supporters on an online radio station that’s available 24/7.
  • Contributors’ stories will be shared online.
  • The goal is to develop a method for standardized use of music in the treatment of dementia in the UK.

“Music plays a very important role in many people’s lives,” said Hilary Evans, CEO of Alzheimer’s Research UK in a release. “Music can connect people, stir emotions, trigger memories and be a source of comfort or inspiration. Like many people, I have a personal experience of dementia in my family and these music choices reflect these experiences. Dementia stands out as a condition that carries an enormous impact but is met by a desperate lack of effective treatments, and research offers the best hope for changing this. ”

Graeme Armstrong, whose wife Trina Armstrong is living with Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA), has curated one of the playlists. He talked about the effect of music on her life in a release.

“Music plays a big role in our lives. We have always loved music, but it is particularly important for Trina now her PCA is quite advanced as it has allowed her to both socialize, as part of a singing group, and provide escapism and enjoyment when she is at home.

“As her form of dementia means her vision is almost completely gone, her world has shrunk dramatically, but listening to and singing along to music allows Trina to stay connected to the outside world and the artists she loves. It really boosts her mood. ”

Why it’s important

The numbers are staggering: about 50 million people currently live with dementia across the world. That number is expected to triple by 2050.

Music, it seems, is a lifeline that can reach those whose lives may be affected by the condition in many other ways.


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Latest posts by Anya Wassenberg (see all)
Latest posts by Anya Wassenberg (see all)

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