By Margarita Gallardo
Singer-songwriter Beatie Wolfe was inspired to explore the power of music on people with dementia after reading Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. “Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears — it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear,” he wrote. “But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more — it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.”
During an interview on Of Sound Mind, a video series on dementia and healthy cognitive aging sponsored by the Stanford Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and hosted by Dolores Gallagher Thompson, PhD, Wolfe discusses a pilot program looking at the impact of new, unfamiliar music on people with memory disorders, including her own grandmother who suffers from dementia.
“We saw a 72 percent improvement in memory and communication across that four-month period, and we had people who were virtually catatonic getting up and dancing, and individuals who hadn’t spoken in almost a year singing along to these songs that they’d never heard,” she shares in the video above, which also includes moving footage from the study.
The rest of the videos, on topics ranging from dementia prevention to Parkinson’s disease, are worth a look, too.