For Alzheimer's Patients, Singing Improves Mental Abilities


While today's boomers may best remember the words to Beatles or Rolling Stones songs, groups of older folks with Alzheimer's disease improved mental skills after sing-alongs of '40s and '50s movie and show tunes!

Sing-alongs help Alzheimer's patients in many ways: Shutterstock image via gawker.comSing-alongs help Alzheimer's patients in many ways: Shutterstock image via gawker.comJane Flinn and Linda Maquire, neuroscientists at George Mason University worked with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease residents of an east coast care home, holding 50-minute group singing sessions three times per week for four months.  The residents were encouraged to sing loudly and boldly and they did - songs like the Sound of Music, When You Wish Upon A Star, and other songs most familiar to them that were chosen by Maquire. Half of each group sang and the other half were encouraged to listen.

Tests given before and after the four month singing trial yielded some remarkable findings: Among patients who just listened, temporal lobe activity increased on the right side of the brain, and watching someone lead the group resulted in greater activity in the visual area of the brain.  Those who sang in the groups had more activity on the left side of the brain.

While memory, speech, and language processes are significantly impaired as Alzheimer's progresses, the scientists found that patients were able to remember songs they knew from their youths, and singing them not only 'lit up' pathways in their brains, but a study conducted at Helsinki University showed improvements in patients' moods, orientation, and certain types of memory.  To some extent, their general cognitive skills also improved as a result of the sing-alongs.

Flinn presented her study to attendees of Neuroscience 2013 in San Diego.  She advises Alzheimer's care homes to institute group singing as a routine activities for patients, as "singing is cheap, easy, and engaging."

source: The Guardian