Think back to your youth; what do you remember most? In many cases, your memory is attached to a song.
Music is a part of our lives. Our mother’s sing to us as tiny infants in their arms. We learn rhyming songs to help us learn common, everyday chores. If I say A-B-C-D-E-F-G, you probably start humming the rest of the song.
Why the brain and body processes music the way it does remains a mystery. We’re only starting to discover how important music is in our lives. But we do know that as long as people have been on this planet, music has been an important part of the way we live. Music allows us to storytell in an animated way. And while you may have trouble remembering everything you studied for a test the night before, chances are you can recall the words to your favorite music from decades earlier.
Maybe it’s because speech uses smaller parts of our brain than music. Scientists know that music fires off almost every part of our brain, stimulating responses from everyone who hears it. Even if you haven’t heard a song in years, you’re likely to associate it with an event in your past, triggering emotion based on that time in your life.
That’s the basis behind music therapy. In numerous clinical trials, therapists have great results when they play music to help patients with chronic conditions. Adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s show remarkable differences when introduced to music therapy, when compared to those who don’t.
Even with these chronic conditions, not all parts of the brain are impacted. The hippocampus, which controls memory and emotional impact, remains intact. When music is played, it often triggers long term memories, and can cause people that haven’t spoken in years to suddenly break out in song.
Research has also shown that making music is different than listening. Actively taking part in a song activates even more in the brain, and helps with balance and movement in cognitive and limbic areas. That’s why music therapy often starts with listening to old, familiar tunes, but quickly moves into production to get the body involved.
While music therapy isn’t a miracle cure, it can be good for both the caregiver and the one they’re caring for. Instead of witnessing loss after loss, they can suddenly experience something that brings their loved one joy. They can possibly sing or even dance together, helping them remember the good times once again.
Have you ever tried music therapy?