December 04, 2018
2 min read

Music intervention may improve mood, agitation in dementia

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After engaging in a person-centered music intervention, individuals with dementia showed a positive change in mood and a decrease in agitation, according to study findings.

These results showed the potential of personalized music listening interventions as a non-pharmacological approach for dementia, according to researchers.

“Although many surmise that there is ‘no life inside’ for individuals living with moderate-to-late stage dementia, a documentary, Alive Inside, showed that listening to personalized music with headphones encourages stimulation, singing and increased communication,” Emily S. Ihara, PhD, MSW, from the department of social work, George Mason University, and colleagues wrote. “Music listening interventions using headphones and playback methods provide opportunities for participants to listen to music when caregivers are otherwise occupied and are appealing because of the low cost and ease of implementation.”

In their quasi-experimental study, researchers assessed whether a person-centered music listening intervention affected mood, agitation and social engagement in 51 adults with dementia. They developed individualized music playlists for each participant, asking caregivers about the participant’s favorite music or playing different songs for them to see their reactions. Each participant received headphones and personalized music programmed on a playlist, which they listened to during the intervention sessions. The songs were shuffled for each session.

The investigators measured mood and agitation via standardized instruments and used in-person and video-recorded observations of participant behavior to assess changes in mood, agitation, connection with the music and social engagement before, during and after the intervention. Within-person differences and between-group differences were examined.

There were 31 participants in the intervention condition and 20 participants in the comparison condition. Though not statistically significant, Ihara and colleagues observed a positive change in mood and reduction in agitation among participants with dementia. However, the behavioral observations demonstrated statistically significant increases in joy, eye contact and movement, engaging and talkativeness as well as reductions in moving, dancing and sleeping from before to after the intervention, according to the results.

In addition, the results showed increases in smiling, alertness, relaxation, music recognition, singing, and following rhythm while participants listened to music during the intervention. Smiling, appearing relaxed, calmness, agitation and other factors decreased however from the intervention to post-intervention period, the researchers found.

“The study findings imply that personalized music has potential as a nonpharmacological intervention, particularly when the music choices are connected to positive memories for the individual living with dementia,” Ihara and colleagues wrote. “This low-cost, person-centered music listening intervention can be implemented across various types of care settings, transferring easily as individuals living with dementia require different levels of care throughout their life.” – by Savannah Demko

Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.