Research into the effect of music on Dementia Sufferers
The following extracts from an article in the Journal of Dementia Care (Research Focus) make interesting reading: Singing as a Therapeutic Intervention in Dementia Care
We recently performed the first analysis of MTC (Music Therapeutic Caregiving) with a group of people in the later stages of dementia (Gotell, Brown & Ekman, submitted for publication). The study took place in a 24-bed specialist dementia care unit in Sweden. During the daily morning care routine, the caregiver assists the person with personal care (washing, cleaning teeth, combing hair, dressing) in a private bathroom. Three conditions were compared: no music (the control condition), background music and caregiver singing to the person (music-therapeutic care giving). For this article, we will leave aside our results with background music and focus on the singing intervention.
With no music and no singing – people demonstrated a familiar array of behavioural problems associated with dementia and were generally confused about the activities being performed. Some were highly aggressive and constantly pushed the caregiver away; some were mute while others shrieked; people were generally resistant and non-compliant. Caregivers made frequent use of verbal instructions and narrations in an attempt to make their actions sensible to the person. Overall, there was little sense of understanding, cooperation or mutuality in these interactions. In the singing condition caregivers sang familiar folk or popular songs to the person with dementia while performing the activities just described. An analysis of the verbal communication showed striking differences compared with the control situation. Caregivers were not merely singing the instructions they had spoken in the no-singing condition; they were singing familiar old songs. As a result of this, the amount of verbal instructing and narrating diminished significantly.
However, contrary to expectations, comprehension and cooperation increased dramatically. There was much less aggression and resistance from people with dementia, and disruptive screaming ceased. Equally important, people had a much better sense of how to perform grooming activities on themselves, including brushing the hair, shaving (for male patients), brushing the teeth, and even recognizing their own image in the mirror. Caregiver singing seemed to make the world of the person with dementia comprehensible.
It is a well documented fact that Classical music has an extremely beneficial effect on the brain. Maths students listening to Mozart’s compositions immediately prior to a mathematics examination performed substantially better than their counterparts who listened to music of their own choice or no music at all. Repeated testing of this kind proved conclusively that Mozart’s compositions stimulate the brain to perform to a greater capacity.
There has also been research conducted among children in primary schools. A four year study into groups of children either being given musical keyboard studies or computer studies. The IQ (Intelligence Quotient) was noted of children in both groups before and after the four year study and the results indicated that the IQ of children given musical keyboard skills was proportionately higher than the IQ of those with computer skills.