Music and dementia has an interesting connection. Researchers at University of Helsinki, led by Dr. Teppo Särkämö have found out that musical leisure activity, especially singing, when implemented by proper caregivers can emotionally and cognitively help in dementia treatment. The research that was published in Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, also revealed that while singing was found to be more helpful in early dementia sufferers, listening to music aided cognitive development in people at more advanced levels of dementia.

The findings can pave way for a better and more focussed approach towards dementia care and also help in implementing music at different dementia stages.

“Our findings suggest that musical leisure activities could be easily applied and widely used in dementia care and rehabilitation. Especially stimulating and engaging activities, such as singing, seem to be very promising for maintaining memory functioning in the early stages of dementia,” says Dr. Särkämö in his paper.

He added that it is extremely important to find alternative ways that will stimulate and maintain emotional, cognitive and social well-being of dementia sufferers. He seemed concerned about the increasing global prevalence of the disease. According to him, the limited resources available in public healthcare for dementia caregivers and sufferers prove the need to have alternative ways.

The researchers initially recruited 89 dyads of persons suffering from mild to moderate dementia and caregivers “to a single-blind randomized controlled trial.” They were given music coaching for a 10-week period that involved listening to familiar songs and singing. Some received standard care.

A previous nine month longitudinal study carried out through mood questionnaires and neuropsychological tests revealed previously that musical activities enhanced cognitive skills such as executive functions, working memory, orientation and reduce depression as compared to standard care.

This new study wanted to find out how various demographic and clinical factors influence specific emotional and cognitive effects of the two interventions. This would in turn help in deciding who benefits from music and who benefits from singing. Researchers evaluated the efficacy and impact of the interventions based on dementia etiology, severity, care situation, age and past musical hobbies.

The result was surprisingly good! Music and singing both helped in reducing depression in patients suffering from mild Alzheimer-like dementia. Music listening helped those with advanced level of dementia while singing, came out to be most effective for those lesser than 80 years of age and those in mild to moderate dementia stages.

Musical backgrounds of persons did not influence the effectiveness of the musical interventions.

Contact the writer of this story at or let us know what you think below.