The promise of music therapy for Alzheimer's disease: A review
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2022, 1516 (1), 11-17. 10.1111/nyas.14864
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease associated with cognitive decline. Memory problems are typically among the first signs of cognitive impairment in AD, and they worsen considerably as the disease progresses. However, musical memory is partially spared in patients with AD, despite severe deficits in episodic (and partly semantic) memory. AD patients can learn new songs, encode novel verbal information, and react emotionally to music. These effects of music have encouraged the use and development of music therapy (MT) for AD management. MT is easy to implement and well-tolerated by most patients and their caregivers. Effects of MT in patients with AD include improved mood, reduced depressive scores and trait anxiety, enhanced autobiographical recall, verbal fluency, and cognition. Here, we review musical memory in AD, therapeutic effects of studies using MT on AD, and potential mechanisms underlying those therapeutic effects. We argue that, because AD begins decades before the presentation of clinical symptoms, music interventions might be a promising means to delay and decelerate the neurodegeneration in individuals at risk for AD, such as individuals with genetic risk or subjective cognitive decline.