Music by itself cannot heal a disease. No one these days, however, disputes that music can heal the soul, making illness more bearable.
Some time ago I wrote about Alive Inside, a movie that documents the success of therapeutic music programs with elderly participants who have dementia of Alzheimers. The program, started by Dan Cohen, pairs a patient with an iPod music player that contains recording of favorite music from a person’s life. Check out this video clip from the documentary.
Cohen’s ideas, despite demonstrated and sometimes extraordinary success with memory patients, were slow to be widely accepted, but not anymore. Now Cohen’s organization, Music and Memory, is joined by other groups, all rushing to create musical joy for people and maybe even helping them relax and remember things.
The July-August 2015 issues of the AARP Bulletin features an article, The Healing Power of Music, describing Cohen’s work as well as other music therapy programs and interviewing family members. The most powerful part of the article is the interview with a George Mason University neuroscientist:
Flinn and Maguire followed a group of 45 people impaired with Alzheimer’s or other dementia who regularly sang. They tested the group constantly with the Mini Mental State Examination, a cognitive diagnostic test. Flinn and Maguire showed that the mental acuity of those people who regularly sang went up sharply over a four-month period.
The article also mentions the Book Musicophilia, by neurologist Oliver Sachs. I’ve read the book and highly recommend it because Dr, Sachs writes about music and the brain in understandable prose, describing where and how the brain processes music and the transformative power of listening to music.