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The Effects of Music On the Mind of Dementia Patients

Studies conducted over the last decade have suggested a strong link between music and memory. According to Dr. Laura Mosqueda, Director of Geriatrics at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, music is a powerful medium because it can impact parts of the brain not damaged by memory-altering diseases.

For one thing, music evokes emotions that induce memories. How many times have you been listening to the radio, and a song comes on that stirs vivid memories of a particular event surrounding that song? The same thing happens with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.

Music is also engaging. Dancing with a partner to a favorite song or dancing in a group is not only great physical exercise but it also exercises the parts of the brain that control motor skills, sensory and emotions.

Likewise, singing stimulates both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Not only that, but singing has been found to decrease feelings of depression and loneliness by releasing endorphins and oxytocin, hormones that help alleviate anxiety and stress and cause feelings of happiness and emotional security.

So how can you harness the power of music?

• Visit you local thrift store to find CDs or vinyl albums from your or your loved one’s favorite genre.

• Subscribe to a free music streaming service such as Pandora, which hosts thousands of songs from every decade and genre.

• Build a playlist of your or your loved one’s favorite songs on iTunes or Amazon.

Visit musicandmemory.org for more suggestions.

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