June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Over 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. This month is dedicated to raising awareness and conducting research for this fatal, incurable disease. It is important to find treatments and ways to make Alzheimer’s patients as comfortable as possible as the disease progresses.
In 2018, the Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease published “Increased Functional Connectivity After Listening to Favored Music in Adults with Alzheimer Dementia,” which found that using music in treatments can help reduce agitation and anxiety among patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This study was conducted at the University of Utah Medicine, and it used functional MRI (fMRI) to evaluate which sections of the brain are activated when patients listen to music they enjoyed prior to diagnosis.
fMRI Used to Differentiate Between Periods of Music and Silence Researchers took fMRI scans of the patients’ brains while they listened to 20-second clips of familiar music and 20 seconds of silence. The fMRI scans were analyzed to see if there was a difference in the regions of the brain that were activated for each. The study found that when patients listened to familiar music “the salience network, the executive network, and the cerebellar and corticocerebellar network pairs all showed significantly higher functional connectivity than when the patient was sitting in silence.” This means when patients listen to familiar music, parts of their brains begin to work together, which can help improve attention and mood in patients. Alzheimer’s disease decreases brain function connectivity, so the use of familiar music may actually slow down some symptoms of the disease. This study is encouraging because using music treatments on patients with dementia is a way to connect to them and provide some relief and comfort. Dementia patients are typically very confused and nervous, so finding new ways to improve their mood and quality of life is an exciting discovery for the Alzheimer community.
“This is objective evidence from brain imaging that shows personally meaningful music is an alternative route for communicating with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Norman Foster, senior author, and director of the University of Utah’s Center for Alzheimer’s Care, Imaging, and Research. “Language and visual memory pathways are damaged early as the disease progresses, but personalized music programs can activate the brain, especially for patients who are losing contact with their environment.”
Potential Cost-Effective Treatment Could be Widely Adopted Communicating with Alzheimer’s patients through music can be done at relatively low cost, which makes music therapy accessible to many patients. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America and the cost of caring for patients exceeded $305 billion in 2020.” Using music to help reduce agitation and anxiety could be a great low-cost therapy option. The study was conducted on only 17 Alzheimer’s patients, so further research must be done in order to verify the results.
Finding a readily available, inexpensive way to reach a majority of Alzheimer’s patients seems a big discovery for Alzheimer’s research. This study is another step in the march towards better understanding the disease and ultimately finding a cure. At Pulse ISM, we hope to continue to see discoveries through Alzheimer’s research and to see an end to Alzheimer’s one day. By providing the right options for facilities and imaging departments to ease their day-to-day operations, offering connections with vetted dealers and manufacturers, and selling many imaging department accessories direct from the manufacturer at the best prices, we do our part to make it possible for providers to use the fruits of research to bring world-class, cutting-edge care to their patients.
J.B. King, K.G. Jones, E. Goldberg, M. Rollins, K. MacNamee, C. Moffit, S.R. Naidu, M.A. Ferguson, E. Garcia-Leavitt, J. Amaro, K.R. Breitenbach, J.M. Watson, R.K. Gurgel, J.S. Anderson, N.L. Foster (2019). Increased functional connectivity after listening to favored music in adults with alzheimer dementia. The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease, 6(1):56-62. doi: 10.14283/jpad.2018.19 Accessed June 6, 2021, via: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30569087/