Music Therapy May Alleviate Anxiety and Depression in Dementia

  • Researchers at the University of Utah Health found an area in the brain that can be stimulated by music to reduce anxiety and depression in dementia patients.
  • Published in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease, the study tested the impact of a personalized playlist on people with debilitating symptoms.
  • The research has discovered improvements in patient anxiety levels, depression and agitation and study authors noted how those patients “come alive.”

University of Utah Health researchers conducted a three-week-long study to see the effects of music therapy to patients suffering from symptoms of dementia.

“People with dementia are confronted by a world that is unfamiliar to them, which causes disorientation and anxiety. We believe music will tap into the salience network of the brain that is still relatively functioning,” the study’s contributing author Jeff Anderson said.

Patients and researchers selected songs that caregivers would play for three weeks. Highly positive observations were then recorded and a functional MRI scan was administered. The authors were hoping to see changes in the brain.

“When you put headphones on dementia patients and play familiar music, they come alive,” Jace King, the study’s first author said. “Music is like an anchor, grounding the patient back in reality.”

“This is objective evidence from brain imaging that shows personally meaningful music is an alternative route for communicating with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease,” Norman Foster, the university’s Director of the Center for Alzheimer’s Care and the paper’s senior author, said.

“Language and visual memory pathways are damaged early as the disease progresses, but personalized music programs can activate the brain, especially for patients who are losing contact with their environment,” Foster added.

But the researchers noted that these outcomes are not conclusive. They only had 17 patients or participants. A more extensive study is needed but the university’s research seems promising.

“In our society, the diagnoses of dementia are snowballing and are taxing resources to the max. No one says playing music will be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but it might make the symptoms more manageable, decrease the cost of care and improve a patient’s quality of life,” Dr. Anderson said.

According to Dr. Anderson, the study is not concluding that music will cure Alzheimer’s disease, but it may make the symptoms more manageable, lessen the cost of care, and improve a patient’s quality of life.

Source: New York Daily News

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