October 2, 2017

Music Saves: How Music Can Improve Memory


Our relationship with music begins at birth and plays a key role in the formation of our identify when we are young. A heartfelt organization called Music & Memory has created personalized music playlists for nursing home residents with dementia who use their mobile device to hear it. Eyes light up and bodies start to move with the rhythm as the music awakens their memories. There are hopes that this movement could greatly improve the mood and happiness of many people.

As we all know, music is profoundly linked to personal memories such as hearing a song associated with a first love or leaving home. In fact, our brains are hard-wired to connect music with long-term memory.

For persons with severe dementia, music can tap deep emotional recall. For individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s, memory for things—names, places, and facts—is compromised, but memories from our teenage years can be well preserved.

Favorite music or songs associated with important personal events can trigger memory of lyrics and the experience connected to the music. Beloved music often calms chaotic brain activity and enables the listener to focus on the present moment and regain a connection to others.

Persons with dementia, Parkinson’s and other diseases that damage brain chemistry also reconnect to the world and gain improved quality of life from listening to personal music favorites.

Because music is stored in many areas of the brain and is a basic part of what makes us human, using music associated with personal memories helps reach and engages the person with dementia even as memory fails.

Using personalized music can help increase overall quality of life. Research shows consistent results:

1. Participants are happier and more social.

2. Relationships among staff, participants and family deepen.

3. Everyone benefits from a calmer, more supportive social environment.

4. Staff regains valuable time previously lost to behavior management issues.

There is growing evidence that a personalized music program gives professionals one more tool in their effort to reduce reliance on anti-psychotic medications.