Researchers led by Dr. Teppo Särkämö at University of Helsinki, Finland have revealed that caregiver-implemented musical leisure activities, particularly singing, are cognitively and emotionally beneficial especially in the early stages of dementia. The findings could help improve dementia care and better target the use of music in different stages of dementia. The research was published today in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Initially, the researchers recruited 89 dyads of persons with mild to moderate dementia and their caregivers to a single-blind randomized controlled trial in which they received a 10-week music coaching intervention involving either regular singing or listening to familiar songs or standard care. Previously, the results from a 9-month longitudinal follow-up with neuropsychological tests and mood questionnaires showed that the musical activities were able to enhance various cognitive skills, such as working memory, executive functions, and orientation, and alleviate depression compared to standard care.
Here, the focus of the researchers was to uncover how different clinical and demographic factors influence the specific cognitive and emotional effects of the two music interventions and, thereby, determine who benefits most from music. Looking at the backgrounds of the dementia patients, the researchers systematically evaluated the impact of dementia severity, etiology, age, care situation, and previous musical hobbies on the efficacy of the music interventions.
Singing was found to be beneficial for working memory, executive function, and orientation especially in persons with mild dementia and younger (< 80 years) age, whereas music listening was associated with cognitive benefits only in persons with a more advanced level of dementia. Both singing and music listening were more effective in alleviating depression especially in persons with mild, Alzheimer-type dementia. Importantly, the musical background of the persons with dementia (whether they had sung or played an instrument before) did not influence the efficacy of the music interventions.
“Given the increasing global prevalence and burden of dementia and the limited resources in public health care for persons with dementia and their family caregivers, it is important to find alternative ways to maintain and stimulate cognitive, emotional, and social well-being in this population. Our findings suggest that musical leisure activities could be easily applied and widely used in dementia care and rehabilitation. Especially stimulating and engaging activities, such as singing, seem to be very promising for maintaining memory functioning in the early stages of dementia,” Särkämö concludes.
About this music and memory research
Source: Teppo Särkämö – IOS Press Image Credit: The image is in the public domain Original Research:Abstract for “Clinical and Demographic Factors Associated with the Cognitive and Emotional Efficacy of Regular Musical Activities in Dementia” by Särkämö, Teppo; Laitinen, Sari; Numminen, Ava; Kurki, Merja; Johnson, Julene K.; and Rantanen, Pekka in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Published online October 19 2015 doi:10.3233/JAD-150453
Clinical and Demographic Factors Associated with the Cognitive and Emotional Efficacy of Regular Musical Activities in Dementia
Abstract: Recent evidence suggests that music-based interventions can be beneficial in maintaining cognitive, emotional, and social functioning in persons with dementia (PWDs). Our aim was to determine how clinical, demographic, and musical background factors influence the cognitive and emotional efficacy of caregiver-implemented musical activities in PWDs. In a randomized controlled trial, 89 PWD-caregiver dyads received a 10-week music coaching intervention involving either singing or music listening or standard care. Extensive neuropsychological testing and mood and quality of life (QoL) measures were performed before and after the intervention (n = 84) and six months later (n = 74). The potential effects of six key background variables (dementia etiology and severity, age, care situation, singing/instrument playing background) on the outcome of the intervention were assessed. Singing was beneficial especially in improving working memory in PWDs with mild dementia and in maintaining executive function and orientation in younger PWDs. Music listening was beneficial in supporting general cognition, working memory, and QoL especially in PWDs with moderate dementia not caused by Alzheimer’s disease (AD) who were in institutional care. Both music interventions alleviated depression especially in PWDs with mild dementia and AD. The musical background of the PWD did not influence the efficacy of the music interventions. Our findings suggest that clinical and demographic factors can influence the cognitive and emotional efficacy of caregiver-implemented musical activities and are, therefore, recommended to take into account when applying and developing the intervention to achieve the greatest benefit.
“Clinical and Demographic Factors Associated with the Cognitive and Emotional Efficacy of Regular Musical Activities in Dementia” by Särkämö, Teppo; Laitinen, Sari; Numminen, Ava; Kurki, Merja; Johnson, Julene K.; and Rantanen, Pekka in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Published online October 19 2015 doi:10.3233/JAD-150453