Singing boosts brain activity in Alzheimer’s patients, scientists say

Compared to those who just listened to care home music sessions, those taking part show markedly improved cognition

A US study has shown that singing in group music sessions significantly improves the cognitive abilities of moderate to severe dementia sufferers.

Working in a care home over a period of four months, scientists observed patients led through a series of familiar songs. Meeting three times a week, half the group were encouraged to take part in the singing while the other half just listened.

The difference between the two groups was stark, according to a presentation given on Saturday at a Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego.

In an abstract explaining the study, lead author Linda Maguire writes: “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Before and after the musical treatment period, the patients took tests measuring their cognitive ability and life satisfaction. Researchers found that while the singing and listening groups rated similarly at the start of the study, four months later the singers “scored significantly better than the listeners” in both tests.

“These data show that participation in an active singing program for an extended period of time can improve cognition in patients with moderate to severe dementia,” Ms Maguire said.

According to reports in the Guardian, the study was presented in San Diego by Ms Maguire’s colleague Dr Jane Flinn, a neuroscientist at George Mason University in Virginia.

Ms Maguire chose songs that the patients would be familiar with, Dr Flinn said, including classics such as The Sound of Music, When You Wish Upon a Star and Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Dr Flinn said: “Even when people are in the fairly advanced stages of dementia, when it is so advanced they are in a secure ward, singing sessions were still helpful. The message is: don't give up on these people. You need to be doing things that engage them, and singing is cheap, easy and engaging.”

The UK Alzheimer's Society said it regularly holds group singing sessions nationwide.

“There is much anecdotal evidence that the groups have real benefits for people with dementia,” a spokesperson told the newspaper. “Even when many memories are hard to retrieve, music can sometimes still be recalled, if only for a short while. The sessions help people with dementia communicate, improving their mood and leaving them feeling good about themselves.”

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America devotes a section of its website to education and care through music. It says: “When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements.”

It advises that songs from a dementia-sufferer’s young adult years – 18 to 25 – are most likely to elicit a positive response. “As individuals progress into late-stage dementia, music from their childhood, such as folk songs, work well,” the foundation said. “Singing these songs in the language in which they were learned sparks the greatest involvement.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

    Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

    Day In a Page

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy