Music Can Help Patients With Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia Remember & Speak

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Feb 12, 2016 05:00 AM EST

For people suffering from neurological disorders like Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, and even stroke, listening to their favorite songs is more than just music to their ears. It could also strike a chord in terms of a positive response to speech and memory.

The Music and Memory program at the Misericordia Health Centre (MHC) in Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada is one facility that advocates the use of music therapy in patients with degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

By letting the patients listen to music, and even sing with it, cognition and speech are improved, according to CBC News Canada.

"Often what happens is when I go in and see people, they're very disengaged. After listening to a few songs, they really start to come back to life, I'd say, and come out of their shells," said Natalie Baird, a recreation facilitator at MHC, who makes use of the patients' favorite songs in iPods every week.

According to MHC recreation manager Ellen Locke, the families of the patients are happy to see the positive effect of the approach. After letting the patients listen to music, the MHC staff would facilitate a reminiscence session that lasts for around 10 or 15-minutes. This helps in bringing back the patients to their families.

In Japan, a country which has an aging population, music therapy is gaining a lot of ground not just for treatment of dementia, but also for physical pain relief.

A number of municipalities in the country has been utilizing music therapy to help in combating the effects of its rapidly aging population. Currently, the Japanese Music Therapy Association has given accreditation to about 2,700 music therapists, according to a report from Japan Times.

"Even people who are not able to communicate with others can remember lyrics when they hear music," said the program's instructor Takiko Takahashi, a professor at Shukutoku University.

Takahashi also believes that the effect of music therapy on patients is similar to the stimulation created when a person remembers something from a distant past.

For music producer Roger Dumas, who is also a research associate at Minneapolis' Brain Sciences Center, unlocking the secrets to music circuits in the brain could have a significant benefit for patients with Alzheimer's or dementia.

He is using a device called Moog synthesizers to stir up the brain circuits among volunteers that could incite them to sing. "If we can figure out how to extract a melody from the brain, we could help people who are locked-in to communicate," said Dumas.

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