As we all know from hearing that song associated with a first love or leaving home for good, music is profoundly linked to personal memories.
In fact, our brains are hard-wired to connect music with long-term memory.
Even for persons with severe dementia, music can tap deep emotional recall. For individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s, memory for things—names, places, facts—is compromised, but memories from our teenage years can be well-preserved.
Favorite music or songs associated with important personal events can trigger memory of lyrics and the experience connected to the music. Beloved music often calms chaotic brain activity and enables the listener to focus on the present moment and regain a connection to others.
Persons with dementia, Parkinson’s and other diseases that damage brain chemistry also reconnect to the world and gain improved quality of life from listening to personal music favorites.
In this video excerpt from a September 13, 2012, segment of The Doctors TV that featured Music & Memory, host Dr. Travis Stork explains how the brain processes music and Dr. Laura Mosqueda, Director of Geriatrics at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, explains what happens to the brain when affected by dementia and why musical memories are preserved:
The benefits of personalized therapeutic music have been well-studied and documented by distinguished researchers, including Music & Memory board member Dr. Connie Tomaino and Dr. Oliver Sacks, author of Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, co-founders of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function.
To learn more, please visit our section on Music and the Brain.