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The Power of Music

What do you think of when you hear a favourite song – perhaps a song you listened to as a teenager? When our senses are stimulated, memories can come flooding back. The smell of mown grass can evoke memories of long summer childhood days. The taste of certain foods can bring back the memory of a special day. The sound of rugby commentary on a Saturday afternoon always reminds me of sitting reading Enid Blyton books while my dad watched the Six Nations.
Some time ago, we revealed how music can help people with Alzheimer’s. I’m delighted to report that more research has been done on this and a documentary has been produced. While music therapy is not a cure, it has been proved to transform patients to the extent that they recover somewhat on a temporary basis. In many instances, it has meant that the provision of full-time care in a nursing home has been put back by six months.
How are they doing it? How does it work? Music has the power to activate more parts of the brain than anything else.  Researchers have been finding out what music is special to individuals and then creating individualized programmes and recording them on iPods to be listened to at the patient’s leisure.  Just as we all have different memories for various smells, tastes and touch, we will all have personal favourites in terms of the music we like to listen to and the memories that the song or composition holds for us. The music can stimulate our memories and lift our mood.
The Music & Memory programme only seems to be available in the US as yet and is being used in over 400 nursing homes.  The fact it has been used in so many, despite much hesitation initially by nursing staff, shows that it is working well. It will be interesting to see if it grows in popularity here.
According to Rossato-Bennett, director of the documentary, the process can be started as simply as asking the question ‘What is your favourite song of all time?’
The film documentary ‘Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory’ won the 2014  Film Sundance award, thereby boosting awareness not just of the film but also of the power of music to combat Alzheimer’s.
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