It is no surprise that music has many different effects on the brain. Music serves many purposes, from aiding in a calm meditation to amping up the adrenaline in the midst of a festival. New research from the University of Utah shows that music may alleviate anxiety in patients with dementia and increase chances of communication with patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Jeff Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Radiology at U of U Health and contributor to the study, said “people with dementia are confronted by a world unfamiliar to them.” When music is played, the salience network or emotional remembrance part of the brain is activated and causes all other regions of the brain to communicate. This often stimulates the tingling sensations and goosebumps felt when listening to a favored song. Jace King, a graduate student involved in this research, said when patients with dementia are played familiar music, the “music is like an anchor, grounding the patient back in reality.”
The study used MRI scans to observe the brain activities of patients while listening to 20-second clips of meaningful music versus silence. The image results showed that music activates the brain and causes other regions of the brain to communicate, something researchers thought was not possible in patients with severe Alzheimer’s. These results are not conclusive but this study is a step in the right direction for researchers focused on developing music-based treatments for these patients.