Whether it’s taking you back to a certain point in your life, matching your mood or uplifting your spirits, music holds a very special power. Listening to music is cathartic, its healing properties are immense, and, music is often profoundly linked to personal memories.

Music can also play an integral role in memory care. Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias can benefit immensely from the rhythm and melodies of music.

Music requires little to no cognitive or mental processing and instead is influenced by the motor center of the brain that responds directly to the auditory rhythmic cues. Memories of a certain event or a personal milestone can be triggered by the music or song that the person associated with that moment in time. These pieces of music have the ability to calm frenzied brain activity, which enables the listener to focus on the present moment and regain an interpersonal connection with others.

Here are three ways that music can boost brain activity.

Music is emotional ­– Music can tap into a deep emotional recall, even for those struggling with severe cases of dementia. In some instances, people suffering from Alzheimer’s can have compromised memories of names, places and facts. However, memories from their younger years may be preserved. Pairing music with every day activities can help the patient over time develop a rhythm that helps recall the memory of that activity. This in turn can help improve cognitive ability.

Music is engaging – Beyond the actual melody of the music, when a person sings along with a tune, it engages more than just the brain and the area that’s related to singing. In fact, it can activate the left side of the brain as well. In essence, music paired with singing activates multiple areas of the brain, causing stimulation and the utilization of more mind power than usual.

Music is happiness ­– Music has the power to shift a person’s mood, manage stress-induced agitation, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements. For those with Alzheimer’s, dementia and even Parkinson’s disease, music has the ability to bridge the gap between that person and his or her emotions, resulting in an improved quality of life. For those living with dementia, as their disease progresses, they often lose the ability to show affection. Music enables people to feel a sense of emotional closeness that can be shown through body movements. Whether it’s a swinging of the arms, a hug or a kiss, or gentle rocking or patting to the beat of the melody, listening to music can help connect patients and caregivers in a way that’s otherwise impossible.

If you’d like to learn more about how music therapy can help with memory function, contact your loved one’s primary care physician.

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