Singing Helps Mood, Memory In Dementia Patients

First Posted: Dec 10, 2015 06:41 PM EST

Singing and listening to music can help boost mood and memory in patients with dementia, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland found singing to be beneficial for working memory--particularly in patients with mild dementia who were less than 80, whereas just listening to music was linked to cognitive benefits in those with more advanced dementia cases. 

"Given the increasing global prevalence and burden of dementia and the limited resources in public health care for persons with dementia and their family caregivers, it is important to find alternative ways to maintain and stimulate cognitive, emotional, and social well-being in this population," said researcher Dr. Teppo Särkämö of the university, in a news release

During the study, researchers recruited 89 patients with early signs of dementia and their caregivers. Patients were randomly divided into an interview group and caregivers were put into a standard care group. During 10-weeks of music coaching, participants either received regular singing, listening to their favorite songs or standard care.

Previously, the results from a 9-month longitudinal follow-up with neuropsychological tests and mood questionnaires showed that the musical activities were able to enhance various cognitive skills, such as working memory, executive functions, and orientation, and alleviate depression compared to standard care. Looking at the backgrounds of the dementia patients as well, the researchers systematically evaluated the impact of dementia severity, etiology, age, care situation, and previous musical hobbies on the efficacy of the music interventions.

"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," Särkämö concluded.

The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

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