Just about everyone loves music, and recently, scientists discovered that music is especially important for Alzheimer’s patients. During a study they discovered the part of our brain that reacts to music is one of the few parts that we do not lose to the devastating brain disease.
When we listen to music or something that we like, our brain has an autonomous sensory meridian response or ASMR. This is that interesting tingly sensation that makes you aware that you’re really enjoying something. Researchers have noted that our response in this way remains present even with Alzheimer’s disease suggesting that music is able to lift people out of their confusion from time to time.
These findings were published in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. While the effects music has on people with Alzheimer’s does not last forever, it can bring them back to a somewhat normal state for a short period of time.
These researchers were from the University of Utah and are now looking to this region of the brain in the hopes of developing more in-depth music-based treatments to help at least ease up the anxiety those with Alzheimer’s face. In the past, music therapy has proven to make a very big difference and now we know why. The more personal the better.
“People with dementia are confronted by a world that is unfamiliar to them, which causes disorientation and anxiety.”
“We believe music will tap into the salience network of the brain that is still relatively functioning.”
“In our society, the diagnoses of dementia are snowballing and are taxing resources to the max.”
“No one says playing music will be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but it might make the symptoms more manageable, decrease the cost of care and improve a patients’ quality of life.”
For this study, researchers helped participants select meaningful songs and trained the patient and caregiver on how to use a portable device to play the music selected. Music for these people is an anchor that brings them back to reality. It allows them to be here in the moment for a little while. These researchers then used an MRI machine to scan the patients and see which regions of the brain lit up when listening to this music.
The use of their favorite songs was able to activate the brain and give many regions of the brain the ability to activate for the first time in awhile. Of course, more research needs to be done, but this is a step in the right direction. What do you think about all of this? If someone you know is affected by this disease, perhaps playing their favorite tunes could benefit the both of you.
Image via Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto