Music Prompts Memory in Alzheimer's Patients

iPod therapy stimulates cognitive functions lost to disease
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2009 1:26 PM CST
Familiar music from youth appears to awaken long-lost memories in Alzheimer's patients.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Therapists and doctors who treat Alzheimer's are now using music not only to soothe and entertain their patients but to restore some cognitive function. For decades it's been recognized that Alzheimer's patients can still remember and sing songs long after they've stopped recognizing names and faces. Now it's thought that those tunes can provide a pathway back to memories otherwise lost. One claims intensive music therapy can lead to an increase of 50% on cognitive-function tests.

“By engaging very basic mechanisms of emotions and listening,” one caregiver tells the Wall Street Journal, “music is stimulating dormant areas of the brain that haven't been accessible due to degenerative disease.” Another therapist says by singing along patients “are exercising their cognitive function—just like they are exercising in physical therapy.” They can even learn new songs, he adds, citing a colleague's success with “Who Let the Dogs Out?” “I know they had never heard that one, but it became an anthem.”