Many of us have experienced how various types of music can evoke certain emotions and memories, which can completely change our moods.  For some people with dementia, music has shown to help them not only with mood, but also with communication, alertness, behavior, and general quality of life.

Just as with other types of assistive technology (AT), the music, personalized to the individual, does not actually cure but provides a conduit to an ability that was previously lost or diminished; a temporary fix that can last up to several hours after the tunes have stopped.  This improvement in quality of life can occur not just for the individual with dementia, but for the caregivers and family members as well.

In the video below, an excerpt from the documentary, Alive Inside, you can see the amazing effect listening to music, prior to the interview, had on Henry.

Aylin Zafar from writes:

“ The transformation in barely responsive, “lost” patients was remarkable; as seen with Henry……….the music worked like a jolt of electricity for patients, transporting them back in time and even allowing them to speak animatedly after the music was turned off.”

Zafar goes on to quote Oliver Sacks from the video, who sums it up rather nicely:

‘“Music imprints itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience. Music evokes emotion and emotion can bring with it memory.” Furthermore, he says, “music brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”’


About Author

Jeannie Krull is the Program Manager for ND Assistive (formerly IPAT). She is an ASHA certified speech/language pathologist and a RESNA certified Assistive Technology Professional, who has worked with people with disabilities of all ages since 1991.