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How listening to music can help relieve Alzheimer's disease

How listening to music can help relieve Alzheimer's disease

Whether it is noisy or light, everyone has their favorite tune they hear to bring back fond memories.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have found that listening to these nostalgic tunes can help boost brain function in patients with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer's disease.

The discovery opens the door to music-based interventions for people with dementia, researchers say.

"Music that has a special meaning to a person, like the song they danced to at their wedding - stimulates neural connection in ways that help maintain higher levels of functioning," he said. Prof. Michael Thaut, senior author of the study.

"Typically, it is very difficult to show positive changes in the brain in Alzheimer's patients. "These preliminary but encouraging results show an improvement in brain integrity, opening the door to further research on therapeutic music applications for people with dementia."

In a small study of 14, which included eight musicians and four non-musicians, the team played a list of curated melodies selected for participants for one hour a day for three weeks and along with random melodies that had none personal meaning.

They then used functional MRI scans before and after the listening period to determine changes in brain function and structure - particularly in the prefrontal cortex, the control center of the brain where deep cognitive processes occur.

"Music-based interventions can be a viable, cost-effective, and easily accessible intervention for those who are cognitively declining in the early stages," said Corinne Fischer, lead author, associate professor in the Faculty of Psychiatry. of Temerty Medicine.

"Existing treatments for Alzheimer's disease have shown limited benefits to date. "While greater controlled studies are required to confirm clinical benefits, our findings show that an individualized, home-based approach to listening to music may be beneficial and have lasting effects on the brain."

With the new music, participants ’brain activity was limited primarily to the auditory cortex. But with music known for a long time, activity flared up in the prefrontal cortex - a sign of cognitive engagement.