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How does music affect people with Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that negatively affects the memory and thinking ability of the patient. The effects of the disease are getting worse and over time, they eventually lose the ability to perform even the simplest of tasks. Researchers have now found that music activates regions of the brain that are not yet affected by the disease.
The University of Utah Health scientists found in their current study that music can have a positive effect on people with Alzheimer's disease. The music activates even more healthy regions of the brain. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease".
Alzheimer's leads to strong fears
In their study, the experts examined how music-based treatments can be used to relieve anxiety in patients with dementia. People with dementia are faced with an alien world that causes disorientation and fear, says study author Professor Jeff Anderson of the University of Utah Health in a press release. The scientists suspect that music can influence the so-called salience network, which still works relatively well despite the disease.
Music brings back old memories
Previous studies have shown that regular physical activity can help older people with Alzheimer's. A study from 2007, for example, showed that music evokes memories that were actually considered lost. When patients listened to popular old songs, they suddenly started singing or dancing, the scientists explain.
Patients chose popular songs themselves
The researchers helped participants choose meaningful songs during the study, and then trained patients and caregivers on how to use a portable media player that stored their chosen pieces of music.
How did the music affect the brain?
In their study, the doctors found that music activates the brain and allows entire regions to communicate with one another. By listening to music's personal playlist, the visual network, salience network, and executive network showed significantly higher functional connectivity, the researchers report. The cerebellum and the so-called cortico-cerebellar network were also positively influenced.
More research is needed
It is still unclear whether the effects identified in this study will persist beyond a short period of stimulation, or whether other areas of memory or mood can be improved in the long term by changes in neural activation and connectivity. Further research on this topic should now be carried out in order to better understand the resulting effects, the scientists concluded. (as)