Music is everywhere around us. Depends on what we listen to, it can motivate us and make us move. If you are music-holic that cannot spend a day without listening to your favorite songs, and the fact that you may someday lose memories of music, do not worry. As scientists discovered recently, you won’t ever forget music even if you were to get Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The main reason you will stick to music forever is the tingling sensation provoked by the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) when we listen to music. Scientists displayed the brain parts that are responsible for ASMR in an article published by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2018. What is more surprising is that these parts of the brain aren’t affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s.
During various stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia, these parts of the brain do not lose their function. Alzheimer’s disease puts patients who experience its symptoms into confusion, disorientation and lots of memory loss. But they believe that music can help them bring back to reality without the confusion the disease causes. Even if it is for a brief moment, some patients explain that music helped them back to normal. Music therapy is becoming more popular among different medicine braches, including psychology and psychiatry that work with these patients.
But do not get things mixed up. Listening to music and music therapy cannot cure dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but it can make many symptoms that a person with Alzheimer’s disease experiences more manageable. The more scientists discover the benefits of ASMR in Alzheimer’s disease, more music therapy can be included in the everyday lives of these people. For those of you who have a close one with dementia, you know how much they struggle when they lose themselves and cannot do basic everyday things.
The Health University Of Utah wrote on their website:
“People with dementia are confronted by a world that is unfamiliar to them, which causes disorientation and anxiety.” Jeff Anderson, MD, Ph.D., associate professor in Radiology at U of U Health and contributing author on the study added: “We believe music will tap into the salience network of the brain that is still relatively functioning.”
In their previous work, they used a personalized music program for each patient depending on their mood. The study aimed to analyze a mechanism that provokes the intentional network in the salience region of the brain. The result of the work suggested a new approach to depression, anxiety, and agitation in dementia patients. When other neighbor regions of the brain around the salience region are activated, they may delay the continued decline that it comes with the disease.
The researchers helped patients in selecting songs that are meaningful to them and trained them and their caregivers on how to use a portable media player.
A graduate student in the Brain Network Lab and first author on the paper, Jace King, said:
“When you put headphones on dementia patients and play familiar music, they come alive. Music is like an anchor, grounding the patient back in reality.”
Researchers used MRI to scan the patients’ brain regions that will lit up while listening to their favorite songs versus silence. The researchers played eight 20-second clips from the patient’s music collection, eight-block of silence, and eight clips of the same music played in reverse. After they experimented, they compared the images from each scan.
The researchers concluded that music provokes different areas of the brain that communicate with each other. When patients listen to the personal soundtrack, the salience network, the visual lobe, the executive network, the cerebellar, and the corticocerebellar network interact. They all show higher functional activity.
Norman Foster, MD, Director of the Center for Alzheimer’s Care and Imaging Research at U of U Health and senior author on the paper explained:
“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 personalized music programs can activate the brain, especially for patients who are losing contact with their environment.”
This scientific evidence shows that music can provoke different areas of the brain that contribute to reducing the effect of dementia and Alzheimer’s. If you have a loved one suffering from such conditions, consider music therapy that will make them more present.