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Brain imaging show that patients with Alzheimer’s disease can still remember and enjoy their favorite songs

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Music Acti­vates Regions of the Brain Spared by Alzheimer’s Dis­ease (Uni­ver­si­ty of Utah):

Ever get chills lis­ten­ing to a par­tic­u­lar­ly mov­ing piece of music? You can thank the salience net­work of the brain for that emo­tion­al joint. Sur­pris­ing­ly, this region also remains an island of remem­brance that is spared from the rav­ages of Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Utah Health are look­ing to this region of the brain to devel­op music-based treat­ments to help alle­vi­ate anx­i­ety in patients with demen­tia. Their research will appear in the April online issue of The Jour­nal of Pre­ven­tion of Alzheimer’s Dis­ease

For three weeks, the researchers helped par­tic­i­pants select mean­ing­ful songs and trained the patient and care­giv­er on how to use a portable media play­er loaded with the self-select­ed col­lec­tion of music.

When you put head­phones on demen­tia patients and play famil­iar music, they come alive,” said Jace King, a grad­u­ate stu­dent in the Brain Net­work Lab and first author on the paper. “Music is like an anchor, ground­ing the patient back in real­i­ty.”

The shad­ed areas were acti­vat­ed by famil­iar music.

Using a func­tion­al MRI, the researchers scanned the patients to image the regions of the brain that lit up when they lis­tened to 20-sec­ond clips of music ver­sus silence. The researchers played eight clips of music from the patient’s music col­lec­tion, eight clips of the same music played in reverse and eight blocks of silence. The researchers com­pared the images from each scan.

The researchers found that music acti­vates the brain, caus­ing whole regions to com­mu­ni­cate. By lis­ten­ing to the per­son­al sound­track, the visu­al net­work, the salience net­work, the exec­u­tive net­work and the cere­bel­lar and cor­tic­o­cere­bel­lar net­work pairs all showed sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er func­tion­al con­nec­tiv­i­ty.

This is objec­tive evi­dence from brain imag­ing that shows per­son­al­ly mean­ing­ful music is an alter­na­tive route for com­mu­ni­cat­ing with patients who have Alzheimer’s dis­ease,” said Nor­man Fos­ter, M.D., Direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Alzheimer’s Care at U of U Health and senior author on the paper. Lan­guage and visu­al mem­o­ry path­ways are dam­aged ear­ly as the dis­ease pro­gress­es, but per­son­al­ized music pro­grams can acti­vate the brain, espe­cial­ly for patients who are los­ing con­tact with their envi­ron­ment.”

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Health & Wellness

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