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The Effects Of Music Therapy On Dementia Patients

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Dementia is not one specific disease but is rather a group of conditions that can be characterised by the loss of at least two vital brain functions such as memory loss and judgement. The symptoms of which can be substantial, including but not limited to forgetfulness, a limited set of social skills and long- or short-term memory loss. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia which affects up to 70% of all dementia patients.

It is a degenerative brain disease that destroys brain cell connections eventually leading to destroyed memory and other important mental functions. Complex tasks are arbitrated in the brain through the connections between brain cells (neurons) which are named synapses. In a healthy adult brain, there are approximately 100 billion brain cells, each one of which is connected to its partner by 5-10,000 synapses.

Every second we are alive the brain forms a million new connections with a million new synapses. The pattern and strength of these connections is always changing and as such one brain is entirely unique from another. It is in these ever-changing cell connections that hold our most precious memories or where our most familiar habits are learned and our own personalities are shaped, by the reinforcement of certain brain activity patterns and the loss of others.

While there is no official cure for Alzheimer’s there have been many studies by music therapists into the effects that music has on treating these patients and this has been seen as a successful treatment resulting in brightened moods of patients in a depressive state and even the recollection of memories by previously idle patients.

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In this report I will be investigating the effects of music therapy on patients who have been diagnosed with dementia through the focus of how music boosts memory in Alzheimer’s patients and how music can improve the moods and attitudes of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Music boosts memory in Alzheimer’s patients

Music improves the moods and attitudes of Alzheimer’s patients

Music has been held in high appraise by many of the great philosophers including Kant, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Plato and Pythagoras. Plato stated that “Music is a moral law. it gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” And Schopenhauer can be quoted saying “The inexpressible depth of music, so easy to understand and yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being, but entirely without reality and remote from its pain… music expresses only the quintessence of life and its events, never these themselves.” It is through these quotes that can give us an idea of how powerful music can be on the brain. It has a direct connection to our emotions and our brains are able to subconsciously interpret the many attributes that make up a song which makes the brain able to instantly perceive music.

Music evokes memory-bringing emotions

Music, through the evocation of emotion has been identified as being able to bring memories from the back of our minds to the centre of our thought. In even the most advanced of Alzheimer’s patient’s music can evoke emotion. Neurologist Oliver Sacks has stated that “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory… it brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.” and that ‘Music imprints itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience,’. When music is included with everyday activities it can develop a rhythm that allows for the recollection of the corresponding memory of that activity which can improve cognitive ability over time.

Music can increase emotional and physical closeness

In the very late stages of dementia, the ability to share emotions with other humans is often lost but through music it can lead to dancing which leads to emotional responses such as hugging, kissing and touching which brings with it security and memories that may have been otherwise lost.

Music is able to shift moods, decrease stress and stimulate positive interactions

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has stated that “When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements.” The perception of music and sounds is instinctual, it is extremely deep rooted in our brains and as long as we are able to hear, we are able to perceive what we are hearing and separate it into different emotions. It has been found that even plants, which lack brains or central nervous systems, respond to certain types of sounds such as vibrations that mimic those of a caterpillar feeding. Music requires little to no mental processing making music therapy available to all kinds of dementia patients.


  1. Sauer, A. (2014, July 21). 5 Reasons Why Music Boosts Brain Activity. Retrieved from
  2. (2012, April 16). How music improves the memory of dementia patients. Retrieved from
  3. Seligson, S. (2010, June 15). Music Boosts Memory in Alzheimer’s. Retrieved from
  4. Gill, R., & Crumo, I. (2018, September 14). HOW MUSIC COULD REVOLUTIONISE DEMENTIA CARE. Retrieved from
  5. Gold C, Eickholt J, Assmus J, et alMusic Interventions for Dementia and Depression in ELderly care (MIDDEL): protocol and statistical analysis plan for a multinational cluster-randomised trialBMJ Open 2019;9:e023436. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-023436
  6. Northwestern University. (2011, May 12). Musical experience offsets some aging effects: Older musicians excel in memory and hearing speech in noise compared to non-musicians. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 11, 2019 from
  7. Moreira, S. V., Justi, F., & Moreira, M. (2018). Can musical intervention improve memory in Alzheimer’s patients? Evidence from a systematic review. Dementia & neuropsychologia, 12(2), 133–142. doi:10.1590/1980-57642018dn12-020005

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The Effects Of Music Therapy On Dementia Patients. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 3, 2022, from
“The Effects Of Music Therapy On Dementia Patients.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022,
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