Singing boosts memory in early dementia

Helsinki, Dec 11 (IANS) Singing favourite songs aloud can not only boost the mood but also improve memory in people with early stages of dementia, a team of Finnish researchers has found.

Researchers led by Teppo Särkämö from University of Helsinki revealed that caregiver-implemented musical leisure activities, particularly singing, are cognitively and emotionally beneficial especially in the early stages of dementia.

The findings could help improve dementia care and better target the use of music in different stages of dementia.

“Singing seems to be very promising for maintaining memory functioning in the early stages of dementia,” Särkämö explained.

Initially, the researchers recruited 89 people with mild to moderate dementia and their caregivers for a trial in which they received a 10-week music coaching intervention involving either regular singing or listening to familiar songs or standard care.

Previously, the results 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.

Singing was found to be beneficial for working memory, executive function and orientation especially in persons with mild dementia and of younger age.

Music listening was associated with cognitive benefits only in people with a more advanced level of dementia.

Both singing and music listening were more effective in alleviating depression especially in persons with mild, Alzheimer-type dementia.

“Importantly, the musical background of the persons with dementia (whether they had sung or played an instrument before) did not influence the efficacy of the music interventions,” the authors noted.

“Our findings suggest that musical leisure activities could be easily applied and widely used in dementia care and rehabilitation,” Särkämö concluded in a paper published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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