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The Power of Music & Dementia - Part 1




The question if music really can help people with dementia has been very present in the past days. This is why I decided to dedicate two blog posts solely to music.


I personally do believe in the great power of music. Only listening to it can calm me, make me more focussed or motivate me for a work-out. Also, singing is a brilliant way to just have fun and let those endorphins fly. Oh, and the best thing about it is: you don’t even have to be a good singer for it to work.


Also, have you ever heard a song come on that you haven’t heard for ages and you are instantly taken back to a particular experience you had years ago? You are not only remembering, but reliving that moment. It takes you back to it like you never blinked an eye. It’s powerful.


I came across a video of Henry, an elderly man in a nursing home, who gets to listen to music from his youth, and the reaction is priceless:




If you watch the video you will know what difference the music makes for Henry’s behaviour. Henry spent the past 10 years in the nursery home and is initially known for being rather depressed and unresponsive. Once the headset is on and Henry is listening to his favourite songs from the 1940s or 50s, his eyes open wide, smiles appear, and he even sings to the music. He then speaks about it afterwards and you can see that the music clearly soothes his nerves and at the same time elevates his spirits. (If you haven’t watched the video until know, TRUST ME, you want to do that) And you know what? Even medical studies have proven the effect of music on the human mind.

But why does music have such a powerful effect on our memory?

Boston University Alzheimer's Disease Center did a lot of research and found two possible answers for this question. The first is that music clearly has emotional content and presents therefore a perfect trigger for memories. The second theory is that learned music is stored as “procedural memory” or “muscle memory”. This means that it can be compared to routines or repetitive activities such as riding a bicycle or typing in a PIN. This type of memory is usually not strongly affected by dementia. (Unlike episodic memory that includes autobiographical events like people or places that are relevant in a certain period of time in the past)

Makes sense, right? Come back for our next blog post to find out more about the effects of music on the human brain and a little special! Have a wonderful weekend!

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