Music and Memory: The Key to Unlocking Dementia?

Music is a powerful mental stimulant that helps dementia sufferers

Music is a very powerful stimulant. The first notes of a song can take us back instantly to another time and place. All the emotions of that occasion come flooding back. And it’s simple to reproduce music anytime, anywhere.

It’s good for our mental health too. Music can lift your mood and fight off depression as reported in a Time magazine article.

We know it helps with dementia and is now an established part of dementia care routines. Stories abound like this one about MP Dennis Skinner who goes to care homes and sings for the patients. Anecdotes such as that spread the message but what does science say?

Link between music and memory

Dementia is an umbrella term for a range of brain diseases related function deterioration including memory loss. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease (50% to 75% of cases) and vascular dementia is another.

In the UK 7% of people over 65 have a form of dementia, and by 2025 over 1 million people will have it. There no known cure.

It’s not just memory loss. Dementia impacts a person’s mood too and many patients feel constantly anxious and frustrated.

Music evokes emotions and this is important because emotions enhance memory processes. Everything from jingles on TV and radio commercials to mighty orchestral pieces triggers a mental reaction. In fact, music has been identified as important in the construction of autobiographical memories.

Dementia makes autobiographical details hard to remember. Music can be a key to unlocking these memories. It has been observed that musical memory is the last thing to go in a dementia-type memory breakdown so it seems to work until the very end.

Music eases some memory failings due to dementia. More research is still needed into exactly how it works but the fact that it does is enough to be getting on with for now.

Practical Action by musicians and other groups

There are several organisations that make it possible for people in care to hear music, especially music of the past. People such as Singing for the Brain, Music for Life, Lost Chord, Golden Oldies and Live Music Now consist of trained musicians who perform live. They are also prepared to help with the needs of a special audience such as dementia patients.

Since there’s no cure, alleviating any kind of confusion or pain is a huge gain. The Music for Dementia 2020 campaign is another that aims to help this as music makes these patients happier and is considered a necessity. Studies are being completed to put some of these types of systems into app form.

Testimonials to the power of music

The Music & Memory Program shows us how a man who barely speaks comes to life and talks about how much he loved dancing and listening to songs when he was younger. Here is the video:

Positive conclusions about the power of music to help with dementia

It’s hard to be positive about something so horrible, but the power of music has the ability to calm, please, and aid the lives of patients suffering this horrible thing.

We can help by supporting the groups that are attempting to make the lives of those in need better. Click on the attached links and make a donation, or just make others aware of the effect music has on others around the world.



Age UK. (Mar 2019) Dementia and music. Age UK. Retrieved from:

Asprou, H. (Jan 2019). ‘Music for people living with dementia is a necessity’ says new national campaign. Classic FM. Retrieved from:

Cunningham, S. et al. (Sept 2019). Assessing Wellbeing in People Living with Dementia Using Reminiscence Music with a Mobile App (Memory Tracks): A Mixed Methods Cohort Study. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from:

Heid, M. (April 2018). You Asked: Is Listening to Music Good For Your Health?. Time Magazine. Retrieved from

Jӓncke, L. (Aug 2008). Music, memory and emotion. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from:

Music for Dementia 2020. (2019). Home. Retrieved from:

Napoletan, A. (Oct 2017). Music Therapy For Dementia: Awakening Memories. Retrieved from:

Saul, H. (May 2016). Dennis Skinner visits care homes to sing to patients with dementia. The Independent. Retrieved from