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Musical Notes with Melissa: Music and Our Emotions

Melissa Pate

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind. Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne.”

When you hear the song Auld Lang Syne, what emotions come flooding in for you? Nostalgia? Happiness? Regret? Sadness? If I asked 10 people this question, I’d be willing to bet that I’d get at least 5 or 6 different answers.

Music brings with it memories, and memories are deeply personal. In a Washington Post article, music therapist Alaine Reschke-Hernández says, “Music is so connected and integrated with so many different elements of our life.” The article goes on to say, “From joyful celebrations to solemn ceremonies, music is part of meaningful events throughout life and becomes strongly associated with memory.” That begs the question, how does music affect our emotions?

Reschke-Hernández partnered with neuroscientists to see if these music-prompted memories could positively influence the emotions of people with Alzheimer’s disease and how long those emotions would linger. The study found that both positive and negative emotions could last up to 20 minutes after listening to happy and sad music, respectively. Brief exposure to music can induce strong and lingering emotions in those with Alzheimer’s disease, even if the music stimuli is not remembered declaratively. This study is encouraging, especially as mood elevation is a common goal within our music therapy sessions with memory care residents.

For more information on music therapy or brain wellness, contact Melissa Pate at