Trials have shown that old people who suffer from dementia benefit from music therapy. The therapy involves professional musicians and patients playing instruments and making music. The trials have found that the therapy is popular with patients and can help them to communicate.
scientists at Imperial College London are planning to carry out a study to see if they can prove that this therapy has long term benefits for dementia sufferers. If their results are positive, the scientists are hopeful that the therapy can be introduced as a treatment for dementia patients.
Dementia is a progressive, degenerative and irreversible brain disorder that causes intellectual impairment, disorientation and eventually death. It is estimated that 3-6% of people over 65 years of age and up to 20% of those over 85 years of age suffer from the disease.
Professor Greenfield said that while the therapy will not cure dementia it could slow down the progression of the disease. "What could be the case, and this is just an idea, is that by stimulating the brain in this way you're actually stimulating the connections you're trying to keep them working and if they are working then perhaps they would be less prone to degenerating."
Caroline Welsh, from Music for Life and one of the musicians who has played for dementia patients, said the therapy helps patients to communicate. There is a childlike quality that people suffering from dementia have, so they are reacting in an instinctive way often and sometimes their emotion is very raw and very close to the surface. "One would hope so because it is not involving high tech equipment or very expensive or toxic drugs."