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Thursday, September 12, 2024

Music for the Memory and Soul

Whether your style is the jazz age of Louis and Ella, the big band swing of Benny Goodman, or the blues of the 40’s that sprouted into the rock ‘n’ roll oldies of the 50’s, music amazingly becomes the soundtrack of our lives.

Not only can music alter your mood and behavior, research has shown it reduces stress, alleviates depression, and aids in relaxation. What is even more impressive is music’s ability to improve our memory.

Throughout our lives we make emotional connections to music and those connections live in the brain.

Reminisce for a moment…

Can you remember the song that was playing during your first kiss or the first dance at your wedding?

Maybe you smell hot dogs and remember the excitement of your first Cubs game every time you hear “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”?

Maybe you think of your anxious child dressed up and stuttering over his lines in the school play when you hear “Silent Night”?

Music stimulates the areas of the brain that are involved with emotion, association and long-term memory. Because musical sounds hold our attention, we are able to take in more information in this focused state. We are then able to store and recall the information more effectively when we hear the music. The ability to make these connections with music is the reason teachers utilize the alphabet song with children to help them learn. Songs have a better success rate.

The same is true for dementia patients. Playing music that is linked to emotions and personal experiences can unlock memories you might have thought were lost long ago. In some cases music can even assist with recognition. I often sing “A Bushel and a Peck” when I hug my grandmother because she always sang it to me when I was a child. It usually sparks those memories and provides a good conversation of that time period. As her dementia advances, those moments are very special to me.

Start showering your loved ones with their favorite music and begin making new music connections with them. The next time you have a bad day, put on music to change your mood. Dig out those old records, tapes and CDs to help jog your memory about the wonderful moments in your life. You’ll be amazed at what you and your loved ones can recall.

Happy Listening!

Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education

Chicago Senior Living

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