Accessing Memory Through Music

REHAB INSIDER • January 2017 Vol.1 No.1

Enriching Lives Music therapy is a group or individual participation referred to as cognitive stimulation therapy (CST). The efficacy of non-pharmacological approaches, in particular the efficacy of music therapy for dementia, has been a particular interest of late. Can this therapy be evidence-based? Can creative approaches to therapy truly allow patients with dementia to maintain cognitive connections? According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Music and art can enrich the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Both allow for self-expression and engagement, even after dementia has progressed.”1 There is a need for further empirical proof to support this claim. This research is purported to delve into the creative approaches to dementia and establish that further research would be beneficial and warranted. Music therapy is most commonly known for soothing individuals with dementia who are agitated, but it also is known to trigger memories of major life events and emotions; memory, speech and mood are all enhanced with the implementation of these programs.2 Music that was popular to the individual between the ages of 18-25 is particularly likely to elicit strong responses, though unfamiliar music may be equally beneficial since the individual has no memory or emotion attached to the music.3 Music may also arouse an individual through its rhythms and memory-inducing effects, particularly in communal settings, as it extends to the recovery of one’s narrative agency and in turn allows for both caregiver and patient to participate in a more meaningful and mutually engaging social connection.4 Understanding Dementia Dementia is a progressive disease for which no cure exists. It is characterized by cognitive decline in multiple domains — memory, language, attention, executive function and visuospatial ability — severe enough to impair competence in daily living, occupation and social interaction.5 The onset of dementia typically corresponds with Alzheimer’s disease, which affects over 70% of the population of those with dementia. 6 Communicative abilities are severely compromised during the progression of the disease, causing a modification to the vocal quality or a complete cessation of Accessing Memory Through Music Maintaining cognitive connections through creative rehabilitation interventions T In this article: here was a fire inside my grandmother that I could tell was slowly dissipating. The look in her eyes told me everything I needed to know about the progression of her cognitive state. She came back in cycles, unaware that she was ever truly gone. She, unfortunately, is the perfect example of dementia and its debilitating effects on the life of an individual and family. Among the hospital beds, the IV needles, the difficulty remembering who people were, the frustration that occurred when words that used to be so thoughtfully expressed were now lost inside her brain and scrambled in confusion — there was one particularly happy time. The bright light during her progression with dementia came during music sessions in the nursing home, when one would see the cognitive restoration not only for my grandmother, but for all the residents, almost instantly. It was as if a switch had been turned on. neuroscience 21 • Music that was popular when a person was aged 18-25 often elicits the strongest responses • Music therapy slows down hyperactivity in the right hemisphere of the brain, which regulates activities • More research is needed to quantify the clinical effects of music therapy for dementia JANUARY 2017  |  REHAB INSIDER Lisa-Marie Serrone is communication sciences and disorders student at Pace University, New York, N.Y. Thinkstock/istock


REHAB INSIDER • January 2017 Vol.1 No.1
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