Why does music help in care?
Because it is brain-nourishing.
Music activates many brain areas
- Triggers memories
- Increases attention capacity
- Helps to store, organize and recall information
Out of the activities in which we engage in our daily life, music activates many brain areas. Brain health is enhanced when we use our cognitive capacity; listening to- or engaging in- music is a great way to do just that.
In dementia care, music can help an individual to return to a place of comfort and belonging, in an otherwise confusing world. Our deepest and most primal memories are stored in the limbic system, and they become inaccessible in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Music is often tightly associated with specific memories, and can therefore trigger memories in individuals who otherwise have challenges accessing them. Music is often the last type of memory to deteriorate, which means that playing familiar music to promote reminiscence and comfort is an important part of memory care.
Because music engages so many different brain areas, it has a very high capacity to sustain attention. Music therapists can design specific interventions to practice and improve individuals’ attentional capacities. By working the attentional systems of the brain through musical interventions, this can translate to improved attentional capacities in other domains of life. For example, an individual who has lowered attentional capacity after a brain injury, can improve that capacity by practicing attending to music.
Memory systems in the brain are able to capture a set number of ‘items’ at a time. This is why phone numbers are 7 digits long; research shows that we are able to process and recall around 7 independent things at a time. The structure of music can act as a great placeholder for ‘things to remember’. For example, children are taught the alphabet in the context of a song. Remembering 26 letters would be an impossible task for a young child if the letters were not in the context of a melody.