People with dementia often lose their ability to communicate verbally with loved ones in later stages of the disease. But a Northwestern Medicine study, in collaboration with Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA), shows how that gap can be bridged with a new music intervention.
In the intervention — developed at ITA and called “Musical Bridges to Memory” — a live ensemble plays music from a patient’s youth such as songs from the musicals “Oklahoma” or “The Sound of Music.” This creates an emotional connection between a patient and their caregiver by allowing them to interact with the music together via singing, dancing and playing simple instruments, the study authors said.
The program also enhanced patients’ social engagement and reduced neuropsychiatric symptoms such as agitation, anxiety and depression in both patients and caregivers.
More than 6 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s disease.
The study is unusual because it targeted patients with dementia and their caregivers, said lead study author Dr. Borna Bonakdarpour. Most prior studies using music for dementia patients have focused only on the patients.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University have developed a method that employs musical tests and a portable instrument for measuring brain activity to detect cognitive decline in old age. According to the researchers, the method, which is based on the measurement of 15 minutes of electrical activity in the brain while performing simple musical tasks, can be easily implemented by any staff member in any clinic, without requiring special training.
The researchers: “Our method enables routine monitoring and early detection of cognitive decline in order to provide treatment and prevent rapid, severe deterioration. Prophylactic tests of this kind are commonly accepted for a variety of physiological problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure or breast cancer; however, to date no method has yet been developed to enable routine, accessible monitoring of the brain for cognitive issues.” The researchers further note that tests of this kind are particularly important in light of increasing longevity and associated growth of the elderly population.
The study was led at Tel Aviv University by PhD student Neta Maimon from the School of Psychological Sciences and the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, and Lior Molcho from Neurosteer Ltd, headed by Prof. Nathan Intrator from the Blavatnik School of Computer Science and the Sagol School of Neuroscience. Other participants included: Adi Sasson, Sarit Rabinowitz, and Noa Regev-Plotnick from the Dorot-Netanya Geriatric Medical Center. The article was published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
Can music really affect your well-being, learning, cognitive function, quality of life, and even happiness, asks Harvard Health Publishing in a recent blog post. I have to confess that as a daily bike rider who plays music on a blue tooth speaker while riding, I was very happy to learn this.
A recent survey on music and brain health conducted by AARP revealed some interesting findings about the impact of music on cognitive and emotional well-being:
Music listeners had higher scores for mental well-being and slightly reduced levels of anxiety and depression compared to people overall.
Of survey respondents who currently go to musical performances, 69% rated their brain health as “excellent” or “very good,” compared to 58% for those who went in the past and 52% for those who never attended.
Of those who reported often being exposed to music as a child, 68% rated their ability to learn new things as “excellent” or “very good,” compared to 50% of those who were not exposed to music.
Active musical engagement, including those over age 50, was associated with higher rates of happiness and good cognitive function.
Adults with no early music exposure but who currently engage in some music appreciation show above average mental well-being scores.
Julie Stillman was 55 years old when a blood vessel in her brain suddenly burst. The hemorrhagic stroke left her unable to compose a simple sentence – a hard blow for a woman who built a career in book publishing.
It also robbed her of the ability to speak properly. But not the ability to sing.
Now 69, Stillman is one of several dozen stroke and brain injury survivors who lift their voices in joy as part of the Aphasia Choir of Vermont. There are a handful of such choirs springing up around the world, giving stroke survivors and people living with dementia or other brain injuries a chance to tap into one of the few means of communication left to them.
“To hear that clarity and volume, it’s like magic,” said Stillman’s husband, Jeff Nagle, whose last fluid conversation with his wife took place 14 years ago on the phone, an hour before he found her on the floor of their home. “It’s amazing to see this happen.”
With apologies to Gene Kelly for his unforgettable performance in the 1952 epic “Singing in the Rain,” we have the formidable Massachusetts Institute of Technology weighing in on the subject of singing in the brain.
For the first time, MIT neuroscientists have identified a population of neurons in the human brain that lights up when we hear singing, but not other types of music.
These neurons, found in the auditory cortex, appear to respond to the specific combination of voice and music, but not to either regular speech or instrumental music. Exactly what they are doing is unknown and will require more work to uncover, the researchers say.
“The work provides evidence for relatively fine-grained segregation of function within the auditory cortex, in a way that aligns with an intuitive distinction within music,” says Sam Norman-Haignere, a former MIT postdoc who is now an assistant professor of neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Most people aren’t connected to music the way Tony Bennett is, but virtually everyone has songs they love. And music can reengage a person with dementia.
“When my father was in hospice in the last weeks of his life, he had been unable to speak for a while and wasn’t responding to us,” says Daniel Potts, MD, FAAN, a neurologist at VA Tuscaloosa Health Care and author of A Pocket Guide for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver. “We’re a singing family, so we called everybody who used to sing with us. Most of them came, and we just sat around his bedside and sang…and he sang with us. We’ll never forget that.”
Researchers in Japan used magnetic resonance imaging to study the brains of secondary school students during a task focused on musical observation. They found that students trained to play music from a young age exhibited certain kinds of brain activity more strongly than other students. The researchers also observed a specific link between musical processing and areas of the brain associated with language processing for the first time.
Professor Kuniyoshi L. Sakai from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo is a keen musician, as are many of his colleagues. Although Sakai has studied human language through the lens of neuroscience for the last 25 years, it’s no surprise that he also studies the effect music has on the brain. Inspired by a mode of musical training known as the Suzuki method, which is based on ideas of natural language acquisition, Sakai and his team wanted to explore common neurological aspects of music and language.
Music-based interventions have become a core ingredient of effective neurorehabilitation in the past 20 years thanks to the growing body of knowledge. In this theme issue of Neurorehabilitation, experts in the field highlight some of the current critical gaps in clinical applications that have been less thoroughly investigated, such as post-stroke cognition, traumatic brain injury, and autism and specific learning disabilities.
Neurologic Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions by a credentialed professional. Research in the 1990s showed for the first time how musical-rhythmic stimuli can improve mobility in stroke and Parkinson’s disease patients. We now know that music-based interventions can effectively address a wide range of impairments in sensorimotor, speech/language, and cognitive functions.
AS a guy who has a bluetooth speaker on his bike’s water bottle, I don’t need anyone to tell me to enjoy music. But, in case you do ….
Music has been with us since ancient times. It has framed the cultures, rituals and celebrations of our lives. It’s a universal language that brings people together. Now, researchers are discovering the reasons why music can have such a profound impact on our brains and bodies.
AARP convened the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) in February of 2020 to explore the impact of music on brain health. Each year, GCBH reviews research to give older adults the best possible advice for maintaining brain health. Let’s review some of their findings and recommendations for engaging in music to improve brain health.
A universal sign of motherhood is the lullaby. The world over, mothers sing to their babies, whether Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, their favorite song from the radio, or even random notes. This universality makes the simple lullaby a great window into the human mind. In a new study, cognitive neuroscientists found that lullabies soothe both moms and babies simultaneously, while playsongs increase babies’ attention and displays of positive emotion toward their mothers.
The behavioral implications of music are vast, says Laura Cirelli of the University of Toronto Mississauga, who is presenting the new work on maternal singing at the 25th meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) in Boston today. “Infant brains must be able to track auditory events in a predictive manner to make sense of music,” she explains, and many complex things are going on in their brains to make that possible.
From infancy to old age, music demands much from the human brain. Learning more about how we process music is helping scientists better understand perception, multisensory integration, and social coordination across the lifespan. Technological advancements – for example, more portable electroencephalography (EEG) and electrophysiology set-ups and- are allowing cognitive neuroscientists to study music in a variety of situations, from mother-child interactions to live concert halls.
People who play drums regularly for years differ from unmusical people in their brain structure and function. The results of a study by researchers from Bochum suggest that they have fewer, but thicker fibers in the main connecting tract between the two halves of the brain. In addition, their motor brain areas are organized more efficiently. This is the conclusion drawn by a research team headed by Dr. Lara Schlaffke from the Bergmannsheil university clinic in Bochum and Associate Professor Dr. Sebastian Ocklenburg from the biopsychology research unit at Ruhr-Universität Bochum following a study with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The results have been published in the journal Brain and Behavior, online on 4 December 2019.
“It has long been understood that playing a musical instrument can change the brain via neuroplastic processes,” says Sarah Friedrich, who wrote her bachelor’s thesis on this project. “But no one had previously looked specifically into drummers,” she adds. Continue reading →
Artificial intelligence helps shed light on how people’s brains, bodies, and emotions react to listening to music. Music influences parts of the auditory cortex, including the Heschl’s gyrus and superior temporal gyrus, specifically responding to pulse clarity. Changes in dynamics, rhythm, timbre, and the introduction of new instruments cause an uptick in the response. The study also identified the best song types for the perfect workout, sleep, and study.
Your heart beats faster, palms sweat and part of your brain called the Heschl’s gyrus lights up like a Christmas tree. Chances are, you’ve never thought about what happens to your brain and body when you listen to music in such a detailed way.
But it’s a question that has puzzled scientists for decades: Why does something as abstract as music provoke such a consistent response? In a new study, a team of USC researchers, with the help of artificial intelligence, investigated how music affects listeners’ brains, bodies and emotions.
The research team looked at heart rate, galvanic skin response (or sweat gland activity), brain activity and subjective feelings of happiness and sadness in a group of volunteers as they listened to three pieces of unfamiliar music. Continue reading →
A research team led by Dr. Kim Innes, a professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health, has found that a simple meditation or music listening program may alter certain biomarkers of cellular aging and Alzheimer’s Disease in older adults who are experiencing memory loss. Study findings, reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, also suggest these changes may be directly related to improvements in memory and cognition, sleep, mood, and quality of life.
Sixty older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD), a condition that may represent a preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, participated in the randomized, clinical trial. While SCD has been linked to increased risk for dementia and associated with certain neuropathological changes implicated in Alzheimer’s disease development, including elevated brain levels of beta amyloid, this preclinical period may also provide a critical window for therapeutic intervention.
In this trial, each participant was randomly assigned to either a beginner meditation (Kirtan Kriya) or music listening program and asked to practice 12 minutes/day for 12 weeks. At baseline and 3 months, blood samples were collected. Two markers of cellular aging were measured: telomere length and telomerase activity. (Telomeres serve as protective caps on chromosomes; telomerase is an enzyme responsible for maintaining telomere length). Blood levels of specific beta-amyloid peptides commonly linked to Alzheimer’s Disease were also assessed. In addition, memory and cognitive function, stress, sleep, mood, and quality of life were measured. All participants were followed for a total of 6 months. Continue reading →
As regular readers know I am a music lover with a wide range of tastes. One of my favorite aspects of bike riding is the bluetooth speaker on my water bottle that lets me listen to the tunes on my iPhone as I pedal along. When my daughter, now 23 years old, was a toddler, I remember watching music videos with her and enjoying – The wheels on the bus go round and round … – too many times to count. That and numerous other tunes provided a regular source of engagement and enjoyment for her. At the time it just seemed like a fun thing to share with her. But, it seems she was getting a lot more out of it than I knew, according to a study presented at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) meeting in Boston.
A universal sign of motherhood is the lullaby. The world over, mothers sing to their babies, whether Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, their favorite song from the radio, or even random notes. This universality makes the simple lullaby a great window into the human mind. In a new study, cognitive neuroscientists found that lullabies soothe both moms and babies simultaneously, while play songs increase babies’ attention and displays of positive emotion toward their mothers.
The behavioral implications of music are vast, says Laura Cirelli of the University of Toronto Mississauga, who presented the new work on maternal singing at the 25th meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society. “Infant brains must be able to track auditory events in a predictive manner to make sense of music,” she explains, and many complex things are going on in their brains to make that possible.
I am such a music lover it is a wonder that in my 77 years I never learned to play an instrument. One of the happiest discoveries I have made in the past two years was when I found a water bottle with blue tooth speaker on top. It has been an integral part of my bike riding every day since then. Herewith an infographic on music from takelessons.com
Have you ever thought about how awesome music is? The joy of performing and listening to music forms a universal language that connects us across cultures and across time.
And yet despite how universal the experience of music is, there’s still a lot we don’t know about its effects on our bodies and minds. In fact, the famed anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss once said that music is “the supreme mystery of human knowledge.”
Mysterious though it may be, scientists have discovered some interesting theories for the most common musical phenomena that we all experience. For example, why do songs get stuck in your head? What’s the effect of music on memory?
I guess it is appropriate to write a music post immediately following yesterday’s post on music having a powerful effect on the brain. I have been a music lover all of my life. I spent the year 1977 in London on assignment with Reuters News Service. It so happens that Abba was among the hottest groups going at that time and I listened to tons of their music. Also became a very big fan. I still play it on my iPhone while riding my bike.
But, the Day before you came is something special. It was one of their later tunes and not typical of their cheery upbeat melodies. I am sure it is my favorite of their entire catalog. Speaking for myself, I have definitely experienced the feeling of this song, how my life went on in its mundane fashion UNTIL I encountered this very special person. Then everything changed, like someone turned the lights on in a dark room.
Anyway, click the link and enjoy the beautiful Agnetha’s voice. I confess to having had a crush on her for years.