August 11, 2011

Many recent studies have touted music’s power to calm or to provide energy. Results also show that music can revive memories even when dementia or Alzheimer’s has set in, making those memories hidden most times. A new study suggests that music may also assist people with a dementia or Alzheimer’s to actually retain new information. This is a finding that holds promise for those living with Alzheimer’s.

Brandon Ally, a School of Medicine assistant professor of neurology, based at the Alzheimer’s Disease Center facility at the VA Medical Center in Bedford, Mass., performed a small study that demonstrated that Alzheimer’s patients learned more lyrics when set to music than when simply spoken. Hopefully, the results could lead to using new ways to help Alzheimer’s patients remember.

Brandon noted, “While the parts of the brain where we make memories – the medial temporal lobes like the hippocampus – are the first parts to be ravaged as Alzheimer’s develops, music pulls from the cortical and subcortical areas, which aren’t as damaged by the disease.”

Here is a PDF in Google docs that includes the full article published in the journal Neuropsychologia.