Over five million people in the US are living with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) (Alzheimer’s Disease International, 2019). One approach to addressing the challenging symptoms of AD is to offer individuals opportunities to listen to or to make music in order to ameliorate a variety of concerns such as social isolation and difficult behaviors. What remains largely unknown is our understanding of the neural mechanisms at play in individuals with AD when listening to or engaging in music making. This study will serve to uncover how the AD brain processes and experiences music stimuli and how this stimuli impacts mood, emotional regulation, and neural synchronicity and regulation, thereby maximizing the potential of music as a beneficial resource for those affected by the disease.
While music experiences are commonly offered to individuals with AD by music therapy professionals, dedicated music listening programs, and those in the entertainment industry, the true implications of these endeavors remains unclear. Anecdotally we would say that music is beneficial but at this time the evidence is largely inconclusive. A 2018 Cochrane Review on music-based therapeutic interventions for people with dementia found indeterminate results of the value of music as a therapeutic intervention. Our research has three aims, to ascertain the impact of music listening and music making on the brain wave activity of persons with dementia, to define the impact of music making activities on brain wave synchronicity between persons with dementia and their caregivers, and to help caregivers to anticipate behavioral changes of the person with dementia and to, in turn, respond by providing a music-based experience that will serve to address behaviors before they escalate and enhance communication and engagement.