Researchers at the University of Utah have analysed the effect hearing familiar music has on the brain of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The study looked at 17 people living with dementia, using a functional MRI scan to analyse brain activity after listening to music.
The researchers found brain activity increased in those areas of the brain which are affected by music temporarily, with greater connectivity between brain areas.
Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, says: “From talking to people with dementia at our Singing for the Brain groups, we know the positive effect that music can have. People who may be quiet or reserved can be transformed when they hear a song they recognise – joining in singing and even having a dance.
“This study suggests that this transformation could be in part due to parts of the brain connecting better for a brief time after hearing music. Further research is needed to help understand the longer-term effects of music, and help show that it’s not only drugs that can help people manage with dementia.
“Dementia is a devastating condition, slowly stripping people of their memories, relationships and identities. It’s so important to still include people with dementia in social activities – no one should have to face it alone.”