Music good for brain activity

Music soothes the soul and the savage beast and, so it seems, people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. But how?

A recent study reveals that music helps dementia patients recall memories and emotions when certain music is played. It also shows that singing enhances cognitive ability even more than just listening to music.

Researchers trying to determine the effects of music on dementia patients asked one half of a study group to sing songs and the other half to just listen. The group was then asked to take a cognitive ability and life satisfaction test, the results of which revealed singing participants scored significantly better than their listening counterparts.

Findings of the study include:

  • when music is paired with an everyday activity, Alzheimer’s patients can better recall the activity and improve their cognitive ability over time
  • musical aptitude and appreciation are two abilities that remain long after all other abilities have declined, making it an effective way to reach a person in the later stages of the disease
  • music helps to encourage emotional and physical closeness in dementia patients, which, in turn, creates security and memory recall
  • singing activates the left side of the brain; listening to music engages the right side of the brain; and watching a class participate in musical exercise engages the visual areas of the brain, meaning that music stimulates more brain power than usual
  • music therapy shifts mood and reduces agitation, which then leads to positive interaction and improvement of cognitive function
  • singing requires little mental or physical coordination, but enhances motor skills.

Show tunes, classic hits and songs from movies and musicals have the best effect. Theme music from popular movies such as The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz (with its emotionally charged Somewhere Over the Rainbow) work well; as too, will songs from any of your favourite performers, movies or even television commercial jingles.

“The message is: do not give up on these men and women. You want to be performing things that engage them, and singing is cheap, effortless and engaging,” says George Mason University researcher Dr Jane Flinn.


Do you sing a song every day? Were you aware of the mental power of music? Do you have a favourite song that reminds you of a specific time in your life? Why not share it with our members?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.


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