The Power of Music on Memory

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane /
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane /


  • Music can be powerful for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, even in the very late stages of the disease. Music can affect mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements. Response to rhythm hardly requires any cognitive or mental processing. They are affected by the motor center of the brain that responds to auditory rhythmic cues.



  • Music Associations:  Music is often strongly associated with important events and a wide array of emotions. Simply hearing a tune long after the occurrence can evoke a memory of it. A melody that is soothing can rekindle memories of a lost loved one, which can be deeply felt. However, the direct links with the music can be unknown; therefore, it is difficult to predict an individual’s response. Choosing songs from an individual’s young adult years, from ages 18 to 25, are most likely to have the strongest responses. Unfamiliar music can carry no memories or emotions which can be beneficial. This may be the best choice when developing new responses, such as relaxation methods designed for stress-management or enhance sleep. For individuals entering into their late-stage of dementia, music from their childhood work well. Singing these songs in the language in which they were initially learned can spark the greatest involvement.


  • Sound of Music:  “Stimulative music” activates, and is characterized by percussive sounds and quick tempos, which naturally tends to promote movement. On the other hand, “sedative music” quiets, such as ballads and lullabies, which include unaccented beats, no syncopation, slow tempos, and little percussive sound. Sedative music can assist in routine changes that might cause agitation.


  • Agitation Management:  People who are overcome by the symptoms of late dementia such as the loss of speech often become frustrated and agitated. They experience sensory overload from the inability to process environmental stimuli. Singing, rhythm playing, dancing, physical exercise, and other music activities can help diffuse this behavior and redirect their attention.


  • Emotional Closeness:  The progression of dementia usually leads the individual to lose the ability to share thoughts and gestures of affection with their loved ones. Although, they can still move with the beat until the very late stages of the disease. Even some with the inability to walk can still follow cues to rhythmically swing their arms. This provides an opportunity for caregivers and those receiving care to continue to closely connect with one another.








For those who are struggling with memory loss, a memory screen is a step in the right direction to keeping their minds healthy. Apply for a FREE memory screen today!