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Personalized Music Can Activate Brain Of Dementia Patients

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Researchers investigated how listening to music affects dementia patients. They found that personalized music can serve as alternative route to communicate with patients who are suffering from Alzheimer's disease.  ( Ian Waldie | Getty Images )

Earlier studies have shown the effects of personalized music program on the mood of dementia sufferers. Findings of a new study shed more light on the link between music and the degenerative condition.

Regions Of The Brain Spared From Alzheimer's Disease

A salience brain network is responsible for the chills people experience when they listen to music. Researchers said that dementia patients face a world that seems unfamiliar to them and that music may help tap into the salience network of their brain that remains relatively functioning, being spared from Alzheimer's disease.

In a new study to be published in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease, study researcher Norman Foster, from the University of Utah Health, and colleagues looked into this region of the brain to develop music-based treatments that can help patients suffering from dementia.

Music For Dementia Patients

The researchers helped in selecting meaningful songs for a group of dementia patients. The researchers said that these patients come alive when they listen to familiar music. Researchers likened music to an anchor that grounds the patients back to reality.

Using functional MRI, Foster and colleagues investigated what happens when dementia patients listened to clips of music from their own music collection, clips of this music played in reverse, and blocks of silence.

Jeff Anderson and colleagues found evidence suggesting that music activates the brain and causes whole regions to communicate. They also found that when the patients listened to personal soundtracks, regions of the brain showed increased functional connectivity.

Foster said that the results provide evidence that personal meaningful music can serve as an alternative route to communicate with patients with 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," Foster said.

The findings suggest of a new way to approach depression, anxiety, and agitation in dementia patients. Activating the neighboring regions of the brain may also provide an opportunity to delay the continued decline caused by the neurological disease.

Dementia

Dementia is marked by a decline in mental ability severe enough to affect daily life. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of 2017 show that 15 percent of the population of the United States has dementia. No cure is currently available to reverse the disease.

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