Medical Mysteries of Music

Published on January 21st, 2018 | by Alan Cross


How music can bring dementia patients “back to life.”

My grandfather was as sharp of a razor well into his 100th year. But in the last two years of his life, he was betrayed by both his body and his brain and slipped into dementia. There were terrifying moments of lucidity when he realized he was slipping away which resulted in periods of extreme agitation. The one thing that helped soothe him was the radio on his bedside table.

Nurses knew that if they turned the radio to a station that played old-time Ukranian music, he’d quickly calm down. He’d also sometimes talk, reminiscing about long-ago things. The transformation from panicked 102-year-old to calm old man was amazing.

Having seen the power of music on dementia, this story in the Daily Mail didn’t surprise me at all.

Dementia sufferers can have their memory kick-started by listening to their favourite songs from the past, experts claim.

Playing familiar music can bring patients, who have been robbed of their memories by the devastating disease, ‘back to life’.

The British researchers want people to learn how to play instruments as they believe doing so could prevent the onslaught of dementia.

They presented their evidence in the House of Lords yesterday, in front of clinicians, charity leaders, academics, policymakers and MPs.

Baroness Sally Greengross, chief executive of the International Longevity Centre, which has set up a Commission on Dementia and Music, is behind the move.

She told them that regions of the brain associated with music memory may overlap with regions that are left relatively unscathed by dementia.

‘People with dementia have largely been denied the power of meaningful music,’ she said. ‘They often live in a silent world yet music can bring a person back to life.’

Read the whole story here.

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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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