Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
Music and the Mind
Think about learning your ABC’s. What is the first thing that comes to your mind? How about the way you would soothe a crying baby? What was your go-to lullabye? Does the song Amazing Grace conjure any emotions for you? Do you find yourself tapping your feet to a catchy tune or perhaps singing in the car? For many of us, music elicits a number of memories and emotions. Music has been used for practical purposes; to pass down stories of tradition and history for groups of people who were not able to read and write.
Recently, media such as the documentary Alive Inside, showcasing the work of Dan Cohen and books such as Oliver Saks Musicophilia have shown the public the impact music can have on the lives of people with cognitive impairments. Music therapy has been shown to manage stress, alleviate pain, improve communication and facilitate movement. It has been used to help people with autism, dementia and for aiding the development of infants and for assisting students in speech development and reinforcing academic concepts.
The brain responds to music in a specific way. Studies suggest it is the actual vibrations from the sound waves which creates a response in the way the brain perceives stimulus. Current research is exploring the relationship between this connection and possible treatment of symptoms related to Parkinson’s Disease and some forms of dementia.
Music therapy is considered a non-pharmacological approach to aiding depression, pain and to help people with agitation and aggressive behaviors associated with dementia. By focusing on a person’s strengths and overall care goals, a music therapist will work one on one with a person or in a group setting. A typical session includes the use of musical instruments, singing and physical movement as appropriate. This is thought to provide a person with familiarity, predictability and a feeling of security.
When looking for a music therapist, keep in mind that this discipline is evidence based and should be delivered by a person with training and experience. Look for professionals with Board for Music Therapist endorsements and certifications. The Michigan Music Therapists website provides resources for how to locate a music therapist in your area. www.mmtonline.org
A lay person can use tools such as iPods, Pandora and live music, music to reminisce with people with dementia. When working with people with dementia, a care partner should identify the individual’s interests and musical preferences. Keep in mind the use of music that may be specific to the person’s culture, background and current interests. The use of music has been shown to help insomnia and restlessness. It allows people to communicate when they may not normally able to use words. Music is a way to promote social connectedness and opens a pathway for a person to develop purpose and meaning for people when they may be experiencing functional decline.
Plus, music can be just plain fun! Engaging in a musical experience can be uplifting for the person initiating the moment. This experience is reciprocal. Even though a person may have limited short term memory or communication, the feeling of a positive experience will linger for hours.