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Music reduces anxiety, activates brain regions of Alzheimer’s patients

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive one as it destroys the memory and thinking skills and eventually the ability to carry out even simple tasks. But there are things in our surroundings like music that help to activate regions of the brain that are not yet affected by it.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Utah Health, examined that region of the brain to develop music-based treatments to alleviate anxiety in patients with dementia. “People with dementia are confronted by a world that is unfamiliar to them, which causes disorientation and anxiety,” said Jeff Anderson, associate professor.

“We believe that music will tap into the salience network of the brain that is still relatively functioning,” he added.

Previous studies have shown that regular physical activity can help older people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

A 2007 study had also shown that music reawakens memories thought to be lost. When patients heard popular old songs, they suddenly started to sing along or dance.

The researchers helped participants select meaningful songs and trained the patient and caregiver on how to use a portable media player loaded with the self-selected collection of music. The study found out that music activates the brain, causing whole regions to communicate. By listening to the personal soundtrack, the visual network, the salience network, the executive network and the cerebellar and corticocerebellar network pairs all showed significantly higher functional connectivity.

It is still unclear whether the effects identified in this study persist beyond a brief period of stimulation or whether other areas of memory or mood are enhanced by changes in neural activation and connectivity for the long term.

The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.