NOV 11, 2015 4:35 AM PST

Reaching the Brain With Music

The term “earworm” is used to describe what if feels like when a song gets stuck in your head. It’s happened to all of us. Perhaps a song on the radio during the morning commute gets in your mind, and you sing along…for the whole day. That song just will not leave your mind. There’s an actual scientific connection in the brain that’s responsible for this. Music and our ability to learn lyrics, remember tunes and even play an instrument is processed in one part of the brain, the right hemisphere, which is where memories are stored. The left hemisphere of the brain is a bit busier with more complex actions like word retrieval and acquisition, analysis, sequencing, logic and numbers. Music finds it’s way into the brain and manages to stay there even when things go wrong like strokes, dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s
 

Music can unlock memories for dementia patients


There have been numerous studies on the benefits of music for patients who have suffered some form of brain injury or disease. A program in Melbourne, Australia (https://labroots.com/trending/id/1694/singing-for-recovery) has patients who are experiencing aphasia---the loss of speech---participating in choral singing therapy to bring back their ability to speak. The ability of the brain to recognize music and process it efficiently despite deficits that are part of various brain injuries is being recognized more in care models and the medical community is tuned in.
 
A study done five years ago at Boston University showed that Alzheimer’s patients learned lyrics and other factual information faster and easier when the information was set to music.  Since then numerous studies have backed up the initial findings of the BU study that music seems to unlock something in the damaged brain and for the patients that are trapped without their memories, it’s life altering.
 
At George Mason University in Virginia, The Department of Social recently received a one-year, $44,949 grant from the Virginia Center on Aging to examine the effects of personalized music on the behavior and emotions of older adults. The grant will cover the cost of supplying iPods to 25 dementia patients at five area adult day centers. The goal is to study the impact that personalized play lists have on memory and cognition of the patients. 
 
The most well-known project on the subject of music and dementia however is the documentary “Alive Inside” that won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival last year. The film follows the efforts of social worker Dan Cohen, the founder of the non-profit organization Music and Memory, to bring music to dementia patients by providing donated iPods to dementia patients.  The documentary shows the almost magical transformation that music has made in the lives of those who many thought were unreachable.
 
Now that the medical community has caught on to the power of music, many more nursing homes, adult day centers and other facilities that care for patients with dementia are bringing music into their treatment protocols. Check out the video below for more information on patients  and their caregivers who are using music to bring them back to their memories.
 

 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
SEP 01, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Women's Genes May Help Protect Against the Worst Alzheimer's Cases
SEP 01, 2020
Women's Genes May Help Protect Against the Worst Alzheimer's Cases
Women tend to get Alzheimer's more than men, but the female genome gives them some protection from the worst aspects of ...
SEP 20, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Can Cannabis be Used to Treat Autism?
SEP 20, 2020
Can Cannabis be Used to Treat Autism?
Currently, the consensus on whether cannabis may be used to treat autism is mixed. While some papers show signs of its p ...
SEP 11, 2020
Immunology
Study Reveals Tumor Defense Mechanism... And How to Beat It
SEP 11, 2020
Study Reveals Tumor Defense Mechanism... And How to Beat It
  P53 is an infamous process gene at the core of the development of tumors.  When P53  functional, it pau ...
OCT 13, 2020
Neuroscience
Sleep Apnea and Alzheimer's Damage Brain in Same Way
OCT 13, 2020
Sleep Apnea and Alzheimer's Damage Brain in Same Way
Sleep apnea is characterized by breathing that repeatedly stops and starts, loud snoring, restless sleep, and sleepiness ...
NOV 07, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Does Cannabis Make Bipolar Disorder Better or Worse?
NOV 07, 2020
Does Cannabis Make Bipolar Disorder Better or Worse?
While anecdotal evidence and some case studies suggest cannabis may benefit those with bipolar disorder, studies have re ...
NOV 13, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Astrocytes are Star Players in the Brain
NOV 13, 2020
Astrocytes are Star Players in the Brain
As neurons fire, they enable us to think and move. They signal to one another where they meet at synapses, and at chemic ...
Loading Comments...