World Alzheimer’s Month
September is World Alzheimer’s Month. In our society today, more and more people are learning what Alzheimer’s is; unfortunately it is due to someone in your life being affected by this disease. Thankfully, today more and more scientists and geneticists are starting to understand how Alzheimer’s affects the brain and body and even some ways to combat the disease. Although there are no cures as of right now, there are thousands of people working diligently to try to change that!
Research Finds Sleep Can Fight Off Memory Loss Associated with Alzheimer’s
A study completed by professors at the Washington University School of Medicine resulted in revelations that could have implications for the improvement in memory amongst Alzheimer’s patients. The researchers conducted their experiment on fruit flies, which have sleep patterns similar to those of humans. They found that by allowing the fruit flies to sleep for longer periods of time, the flies were able to improve their ability to create new memories. If this type of improvement is possible in fruit flies, then it could be that extra sleep will be a beneficial tool for people to use in order to improve their memory and combat the memory loss-related symptoms of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Melody vs. Malady: The Benefits of Music for Alzheimer’s Patients
In the world of Alzheimer’s research, a wide range of methods of treating the disease have been tested, ranging from the logical to the unorthodox. Falling somewhere in the middle of that spectrum is the activity of listening to music, which has recently been shown to benefit Alzheimer’s patients in a noticeable way. Read on to find out more about the connection between music and Alzheimer’s patients’ health!
Study Shows Music Can Boost Memory in Alzheimer’s Patients
A group of neuroscientists conducted a study with Alzheimer’s patients and dementia to see how they responded over several months to the introduction of music to their weekly routine. Their test group attended “music sessions” where they either listened to or sang along with childhood favorite tunes. The familiarity of the songs could be a key to the successes of the experiment that were documented; because singing along with them required recalling lyrics and tunes from years ago, it helped to stimulate the participants’ memories and thus their overall cognitive function.
The study showed specifically that singing along to music helped with thinking skills, but that is not all. In addition to benefitting the cognitive abilities of Alzheimer’s patients, music has also been linked to stress reduction and mood enhancement. It is a natural way to combat depression-like symptoms and is easily incorporated into a daily routine. You can listen to music while cooking dinner, reading, or as an activity in and of itself to bring a dose of memory-boosting enjoyment to your day!
When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements. Think about when you listen to your favorite song, it makes you smile and tap your toes, maybe even sing along, but if you hear a song that reminds you of a bad memory, you might even begin to cry. These can be typical responses when hearing music.
This happens because rhythmic and other well-rehearsed responses require little to no cognitive or mental processing. They are influenced by the motor center of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues. A person’s ability to engage in music, particularly rhythm playing and singing, remains intact late into the disease process because, again, these activities do not mandate cognitive functioning for success. Most people associate music with important events and a wide array of emotions. The connection can be so strong that hearing a tune long after the occurrence evokes a memory of it.
If the links with the music are unknown, it is difficult to predict an individual’s response. Therefore, observe a person’s reaction to a particular arrangement and discontinue it if it evokes distress, such as agitation, facial grimaces or increasing muscular tension.
Selections from the individual’s young adult years—ages 18 to 25—are most likely to have the strongest responses and the most potential for engagement.
Unfamiliar music can also be beneficial because it carries no memories or emotions. This may be the best choice when developing new responses, such as physical relaxation designed to manage stress or enhance sleep.
As individuals progress into late-stage dementia, music from their childhood, such as folk songs, work well. Singing these songs in the language in which they were learned sparks the greatest involvement.
Non-verbal individuals in late dementia often become agitated out of frustration and sensory overload from the inability to process environmental stimuli. Engaging them in singing, rhythm playing, dancing, physical exercise, and other structured music activities can diffuse this behavior and redirect their attention.
For best outcomes, carefully observe an individual’s patterns in order to use music therapies just prior to the time of day when disruptive behaviors usually occur.
There are many ways to become involved in the lives of your loved ones who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s and music is truly a great way!
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