Music may help treat Alzheimer's disease. Highlighting this aspect, a new study says that participating in regular singing sessions can help improve brain function of people affected with the disorder.
Alzheimer's disease is a brain disorder that leads to the destruction of memory and other important functions of the brain, including thinking, communication and behaviour. It affects the memory of elderly people above 65 years of age, following which protein plaques and tangles are formed in the brain, damaging and killing brain cells. It is one of the most common causes of dementia.
For the study, the American researchers arranged regular group singing sessions for a group of elderly residents living at a US care home, The Guardian reported. The participants received 50-minute group singing sessions, thrice a week. After a follow-up of four months, the researchers found noticeable improvement in mental performance of the participants.
"A lot of people have grown up singing songs and for a long time the memories are still there," Jane Flinn, a neuroscientist at George Mason University in Virginia, told The Guardian. "When they start singing it can revive those memories."
The singing sessions concentrated mainly on popular songs from The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, The Wizard of OZ and Pinocchio. To find out the benefits of singing sessions, the researchers tested cognitive plus drawing skills of the participants, before and after the study. The participants also answered questions that measured their satisfaction to the life. Improvements in all areas were apparent after the sessions. Participants affected with dementia benefitted the most.
However, only those patients who actively participated in the sessions by singing themselves benefitted. Only listening to the music session did not bring any benefit to the brain, Daily Mail reported.
"Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer's Disease," lead author Linda Maguire, of George Mason University in Virginia, told Daily Mail. "These data show that participation in an active singing program for an extended period of time can improve cognition in patients with moderate to severe dementia."
The findings were presented at the recent Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego.