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How listening to music helps those living with dementia

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In recent years, it’s become increasingly apparent that listening to music can have some therapeutic effects on the brain, particularly for those in later life and those who suffer from dementia. Despite dealing with memory loss, it has been noted that many dementia patients respond quite positively to music, raising the profile of music’s effects on the brain.

It’s a phenomenon that has historically baffled psychologists and others within the scientific community. However, newer discoveries and technological advancements have helped to shine a light on things.

Various studies into the links between music and the brain have analysed aspects like tone and rhythm. Reactions in particular areas of the brain have been well documented, with the areas responsible for memory, movement and emotions all responding well to musical stimuli.

We’re already aware that listening to certain songs or types of music can unearth significant memories. Music has the power to stimulate the brain’s memory banks, causing us to feel a sense of familiarity and hum along to a tune or recite certain lyrics – even when we don’t realise we’re doing it!

On top of that, the limbic system and motor functions controlled by the brain are activated by various tones and use of rhythm. This is what triggers different emotional responses and gets us moving along to the beat. Again, at times we may tend not to notice these effects, as the music – quite literally – takes over our bodies!

Having researched how the human brain responds to certain sounds, it has become easier to devise musical therapies for those dealing with mental illnesses. As a result, positive responses to music have been well noted in dementia patients.

This is particularly ground-breaking as the condition can usually leave patients with degenerative memory loss and the inability to communicate. However, the power of music has helped those suffering to reconnect with long lost memories and to express themselves physically and emotionally.