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Musical Notes with Melissa: Benefits of Music Therapy

Melissa Pate

There continues to be emerging research regarding the benefits of music therapy and music-based interventions on folks with dementia in long-term care! In the Fall 2021 issue of Journal of Music Therapy, a pilot study sought to examine the influence of music therapy on dementia, particularly as it pertains to agitation, apathy, depression, and quality of life.

We know that “people with dementia can often still remember the lyrics of songs they learned as children…[and] long-term music memory is still intact for a long time…and is less affected by the typical metabolic disorders and nerve cell loss.” One reason for this is because long-term music memory is not stored where ordinary memories are stored (the hippocampal area) but rather in the supplementary motor cortex. In layman’s terms, music memories stick around longer than regular memories, which is why you cannot hear a song for 20 years but then sing every word when it comes on the radio.

During this 14-week study, they examined the influence of high and low usage of music therapy and technology-based music interventions (TBMI) on behavioral and psychological symptoms at two timepoints within the eight-week intervention period. Data from 30 people with dementia was analyzed. It indicated significant decreases in agitation and apathy at the two timepoints in the group that had high MT and TBMI usage. Significant results were found for agitation over time.

The authors concluded that considering the results, “a long-term implementation of music within daily routines…for persons with dementia should be strived for.” For questions regarding how you can begin music therapy for your loved one, please reach out to Melissa Pate at