The video clip is here:
This is exciting because it’s spreading an important idea: there are easy and affordable ways to help reach people with dementia. Music, specifically, can have an incredible impact on people, even those who seem beyond reach.
Music and dementia
Think of a familiar song. It can be your favorite song or one you heard on your way into work this morning; any song will do. Start to hum or sing it in your head…how does your body react?
Me, I start tapping my toes lightly, inside my shoe. And a lot of the lyrics come back to me, words I didn’t think I remembered. My mind starts to drift to times I heard the song.
People with dementia, even advanced dementia, may have similar responses.
Oliver Sacks, MD (Author | Neurologist) speculates in the PBS video Music and the Brain: Scientist Oliver Sacks on Musical Cognition (May 21, 2009):
There’s no one musical center–there are 15 or 20 different systems in the brain. But, in general, many of the musical parts of the brain, if I could put it this way, are close to the memory parts and close to the emotional parts.
And so music tends to embed itself in memory and to evoke emotions with an immediacy beyond, I think, of any other stimulus with the possible exceptions of smells.
In particular, when people really have chills and thrills and their hair stands on end with music, enraptured, then you can find the particular systems of the brain. Rewards systems are activated, the same systems which are activated when one falls in love, or is overwhelmed with beauty generally.
This is why Henry, in the video at the top of this post, begins to light up and sway and sing when he hears his favorite songs playing. Something about music stays with us. Even when dementia begins to affect language or coordination, music seems somehow more durable.