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Effects of Music

Music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function
Mannes says music also has the potential to help people with neurological deficits. "A stroke patient who has lost verbal function — those verbal functions may be stimulated by music," she says. One technique, known as melodic intonation therapy, uses music to coax portions of the brain into taking over for those that are damaged. In some cases, it can help patients regain their ability to speak.

Reminiscence focused music therapy
Results indicated that participation in small group reminiscence focused music therapy groups might help to reduce depressive symptoms in elderly people with dementia.

Psychological comfort in the final stages
Music has also been successfully used to communicate with Alzheimer's patients and head trauma victims when other approaches failed.   In a study on the effects of music on Alzheimer's patients, those who listened to big band music during the day were more alert and happier and had better long-term recollection than the control group.   Throughout the illness, music can reorient confused patients.

Singing may help the brain re-learn communication skills
"His personality started to change and he became much as he was before, and he was able to hold a conversation. "He is 82 and likes all the old-time songs, but he also started singing some Beatles songs and songs from the Broadway shows and even some modern stuff as well.

Music can revive memory in Alzheimer's patients
"These were people who couldn't generate any movement or any speech for themselves, sometimes until or unless they heard music," Dr. Sacks said. "And then suddenly they'd be able to flow, to dance, to sing. It was miraculous to see them, amazing."

Music therapy popular as strategy for Alzheimer's patients
Although, currently, there is no definitive cure for AD, alleviation of its associated behavioral problems can contribute to an improvement in the patients' quality of life, thereby reducing their stress level. Several treatment interventions have been used to manage, decrease, and prevent aggressiveness and agitation in people with Alzheimer's disease, the most prevalent being medication. However, given the negative side-effects of many of the existing drug treatments, the need for alternative approaches is evident. Music therapy has become an increasingly popular intervention strategy for Alzheimer's disease patients, particularly for those in nursing homes who display disruptive behaviors (Clark, Lipe, & Bilbrey, 1998).

Music therapy program improved behavior and reduce sleeping problems
"Relaxation with the type of music that calms you down is very beneficial," said Kumar. "To promote a sense of calm and well-being, you can listen to your favorite soothing music when you eat, before you sleep, and when you want to relax. Music therapy might be a safer and more effective alternative to many psychotropic medications. Like meditation and yoga, it can help us maintain our hormonal and emotional balance, even during periods of stress or disease."

Music can enhance memory, reduce stress
Memory is a mental system that receives, stores, organized, alters and recovers information from sensory input (Coon, 1997). Research has shown memory to be affected by many different factors. One of these factors is music, which has been found to stimulate parts of the brain. Many studies have demonstrated that music enhances the memory of Alzheimer's and dementia patients. Music has also been found to reduce stress, aid relaxation and alleviate depression. This experiment placed 60 subjects into three different conditions based on the independent variable of music.

Music can help where other approaches fail
Music therapy treatment is efficacious and valid with older persons who have functional deficits in physical, psychological, cognitive or social functioning. Research results and clinical experiences attest to the viability of music therapy even in those who are resistive to other treatment approaches. Music is a form of sensory stimulation, which provokes responses due to the familiarity, predictability, and feelings of security associated with it.

If it "brings a smile to their faces, then that's enough."
The increased demand for answers, due to the rising population of the elderly and the inability to pinpoint a cure, has encouraged not just researchers, but medical professionals to search for answers. Although music therapy may not be the cure for Alzheimer's, it may help some of its sufferers reclaim some memory or as Nancy Bair, (2004, p.B1) a music therapist puts it, "If they remember something and that brings a smile to their faces, then that's enough." The next step in research on the effectiveness of music therapy is explaining what exactly the music does and what type of music is most effective.

Coaxing 60 year-old memories with a piano
Marshall, who moved with her family to Columbus in 2006 from Canada, has found a new love. It's playing piano and leading songs for area residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities like Brookside Glen. A longtime church pianist - husband Jim is an ordained Nazarene minister - Marshall says she likes the challenge of stimulating aged minds and memories through music.

Familiar music can be more effective
Music that is familiar to the patient can evoke a more positive response than unfamiliar music. One might surmise that if the territory is familiar, something known, then it provides more comfort than something which is foreign and takes getting used to. Familiar music is predictable and thus reassuring, comforting, something that is known in an environment that probably appears unknown after living in the house they have always lived in for fifty years. Unfamiliar music may be less successful because it requires processing and analysis by the brain. When one listens to a new piece of music (especially a musician) the brain tends to be engaged in analyzing the instrumentation, judging the overall quality, searching for melody, interpreting the words, etc. These are skills the Alzheimer's patient likely does not have.

More resources compiled by the
Alzheimer's Association Green-Field Library staff.

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