What Do Mozart and Marvin Gaye Have in Common? Improving Dementia Symptoms

listening to mp3 player
listening to mp3 player
Investigators examined the effects of a person-centered music listening intervention on mood, agitation, and social engagement in people living with dementia.

Observations from a quasi-experimental study in Geriatrics & Gerontology International suggested that listening to favorite music increased happiness and ability to engage in people living with dementia.

Dementia is a chronic common condition with a direct effect on quality of life. Finding interventions that are affordable and accessible is of particular interest to caretakers at the 4800 adult day health care centers in the United States, which aim to promote social and mental stimulation in people living with dementia.

This study recruited participants (N=56) in 5 diverse, community-based adult day health care centers. Each participant scored ≤24 on the Mini-Mental State Examination. Because of disease progression, 2 people in the intervention group and 3 people in the control group dropped out, leaving 31 and 20 participants in each group, respectively in the final analysis.

Participants were given iPods loaded with their favorite music according to family caregivers or to participant response to a variety of songs from Mozart to Marvin Gaye.

Family caregivers rated participants’ mood and agitation before, immediately after, and 6 weeks following treatment on the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia and the Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory. Researchers independently validated behavioral observations via 20-minute videos of the participants at each of the 3 assessments.

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Although participants exhibited no significant improvements in depression or agitation, behavioral observations revealed a notable increase in joy, eye contact and movement, and social engagement, whereas rocking and daytime sleeping decreased. These improvements were significant from pre- to post-intervention, although they decreased from the intervention to post-intervention period.

That standardized instruments revealed no major changes in participants, which was a limitation of the study, but the investigators were optimistic that the apparent behavioral improvements indicated that personalized music interventions are worth further research and implementation.


Ihara E, Tompkins C, Inoue M and Sonneman S. Results from a person-centered music intervention for individuals living with dementia [published online November 20, 2018]. Geriatr Gerontol Int. doi:10.1111/ggi.13563