University of Utah Health researchers in the US have found that a music-based approach can help alleviate dementia symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s.
The team observed a personalised music programme can activate the brain’s attentional salience network, which is unaffected by the disease. It was able to relieve anxiety, depression, and agitation in the patients.
Furthermore, researchers believe that activation of certain neighbouring regions of the brain can potentially help in delaying the continued decline caused by the disease.
University of Utah Health Radiology associate professor Jeff Anderson said: “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.”
During the study, researchers scanned the regions of the brain activated when patients were listening to a self-selected list of songs, and compared it to blocks of silence.
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Images from a functional MRI showed that the music activates the brain, allowing communication between whole regions. The salience, visual, executive, cerebellar and corticocerebellar network pairs in the brain demonstrated significantly improved functional connectivity.
University of Utah Health, Center for Alzheimer’s Care director Norman Foster said: “This is objective evidence from brain imaging that shows personally meaningful music is an alternative route for communicating with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease.
“Language and visual memory pathways are damaged early as the disease progresses, but personalised music programmes can activate the brain, especially for patients who are losing contact with their environment.”
While findings have yet to be validated in a larger study, researchers hope that music-based treatments can aid in reducing symptoms and improve quality of life for patients.