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Bridging Memory Through Music

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New study seeks answers in how music and memories interact

Musical memory can be the last to go in individuals with dementia. While someone in the later stages of the disease may not recall the face of a loved one, they can often still sing along to a favorite song from their youth.

Using this finding as a way to build on dementia patients’ strengths, Silverado is participating in a research partnership with Northwestern University and the Institute for Therapy Through the Arts to study how music and memories interact. The “Building Memories Through Music” program studies music’s effects on agitation, mood, engagement and cognitive function in those with dementia, as well as observing if music serves as a connection with their families. Made possible by the contributions of residents, families, associates and a skilled research team, this study is an important path to helping provide more enriching lives to future individuals living with dementia.

Over the 12 week program, researchers will see if residents become less agitated (a common challenge in dementia), have better cognitive function, show improved mood and be more engaged with their surroundings. Participants listen to a live concert each week with classic songs such as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” singing along or playing percussive instruments to accompany the musicians if they wish.

Dr. Borna Bonakdarpour, a neurologist at Northwestern’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, is leading the scientific study. Some early clinical work is showing promising signs of the  therapy’s effectiveness.

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