Older woman listening to music on headphones
Project Type - Pilot Projects, Artistic Initiatives

Music and Dementia

Studying how music benefits people living with dementia
Western Europe


Musical memory is relatively well preserved in individuals with Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD). Personally meaningful music has been shown to decrease levels of stress, anxiety and help people living with dementia regain a sense of self (Janata, 2012; Remington, 2002). While there is a growing body of anecdotal evidence detailing the benefits music offers to people living with dementia, the mechanisms underlying the positive influence familiar music offers remains understudied and poorly understood.

Project Details

A pioneering study in the field indicated that long-term musical memory representations rely on ventral pre-SMA and caudal anterior cingulate gyrus (Jacobsen et al., 2015). Using fMRI we will explore the changes which occur among individuals with early AD as they listen to segments of familiar (personally meaningful music), less familiar (heard 60 minutes before testing), and unfamiliar music. Participants will be asked to rate familiarity (3-point scale; 1 unknown to 3 definitely familiar) and preference (5-point scale; 1 didn’t like at all to 5 liked a lot) on a scale after each musical segment. We expect a differential pattern of brain activation across the three music conditions, familiar vs. less familiar vs. unfamiliar music. The activation pattern which emerges from listening to familiar music among individuals with AD in our study will provide greater insight into the brain areas involved in long-term musical memory and help further our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the potential music offers to people living with dementia and inform future music intervention studies.