The Power of Music

Part 2: The Effect of Music on Memory

We’ve all had the experience of getting a song “stuck in our heads.” There’s something about music that just latches on to our memory and remains there for...well, sometimes for life. This can range from annoying (“It’s a Small World,” anyone?), to a great party trick (quick! Sing the Alka-Seltzer jingle!) to some very meaningful moments indeed.

Because music plays such an integral part of our humanity and has, in fact, been a “soundtrack” to all sorts of events, big and little, throughout our lives, it’s no surprise that recent research has shown that using music associated with personal memories can help connect, engage and reach seniors.

A recent documentary, Alive Inside, showed an in-depth and moving look at this phenomenon through the work of Dan Cogan. In the film, Dan highlighted the story of Henry, whose health had deteriorated to the point where he was unresponsive to exterior cues. However, when Dan created a personalized playlist for Henry filled with music from his past, something magical happened. When the earbuds were placed in his ears, Henry started singing along. Afterwards, Henry was even able to carry on a conversation—something he hadn’t been able to do in a very long time.

While Henry’s reaction seems nothing less than miraculous, the results are based in science. During a recent study, researchers scanned the brains of patients as they listened to 20-second sound clips and compared them to brain scans done during 20 seconds of silence. What they discovered is that music—especially music that has personal meaning to the listener—activates the entire brain, which causes all the different parts to communicate with each other.

For individuals with memory issues, while certain parts of the brain are affected greatly, there are other networks in the brain that remain fairly functional. One of these is the salience network, which is the part of the brain that can register listening to favorite music. Because this network remains intact even as other capabilities fade away, personal music is able to reach the individual when other tactics can't.

This philosophy of music unlocking memories is playing a bigger and bigger role in senior living communities. More and more retirement homes are integrating music into their therapies and event calendars to bring families and seniors together in meaningful ways.

At The Manse on Marsh, music has always played an important role at our central coast retirement community. From our weekly music group to unique special events, it is our honor and pleasure to share the power of music with our residents and their families.

We’d love to share that musical magic with you at an upcoming event at our luxury retirement community. Join us on June 20 at 6:30pm for a special performance by the “In Time Trio.” Rebecca Robinson, Judy Philbin and Kit Johnson will join us at The Manse on Marsh to perform fun, retro patriotic music that’s fun for them whole family. Join us for an evening rambling down memory lane!