Have you ever heard a song and been instantly transported back to a memory? This is a common experience for many people, and there’s science to back up the phenomenon. Music has been proven to be strongly linked to memory and can be particularly beneficial to folks with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.
The Science of Music and Memory
Oliver Sacks, M.D, a neurologist specializing in the link between music and the brain, is noted as saying “The past which is not recoverable in any other way is embedded, as if in amber, in the music, and people can regain a sense of identity.” Individuals that typically struggle to remember details about their life have been able to sort of refresh their mind by listening to music from their past. One particularly heartwarming example can be found in a viral video produced by Music & Memory that showcases a resident lighting up as they listen to music, then recall memories they previously couldn’t. The difference in the resident from the beginning of the video to after he listens to some of his favorite songs is encouraging for anyone that has a loved one with memory loss.
Thankfully, the subject in that video is not an outlier. In fact, in a it was found that patients who listened to their favorite music consistently saw significant improvement in recovery of verbal memory and focused attention. They also saw an improvement in the person’s mood and cognitive function.
Holiday Music and Memory
With the holiday season upon us, many families will come together to celebrate. It can be difficult for the family members of a relative experiencing memory loss to find ways to connect, and one great technique is using holiday songs! There is even an album of holiday music specifically curated for residents with Alzheimer’s. Playing festive music is fun for the whole family, and can even help children feel more connected to a loved one with memory loss.
Consider holiday music that was popular when your loved one was in their teens or twenties, as well as songs they are especially fond of.
While it can be difficult to adjust to a loved one’s memory loss, the special nostalgia of the holiday season, and classic songs we play, are great tools to bring your family together.