ASU Music and Memory Project Shows Success for Alzheimers

Wednesday March 29, 2017

Arizona State University
Emily Lockwood

Music is loved by many and is known for its stress-reducing and soothing powers. For some it can even be a form of therapy, purposefully deployed to affect mood and behavior, and improve health outcomes.

Arizona State University’s Music and Memory Project focuses on the power of music to evoke positive emotions and ease suffering. Researchers are testing a novel intervention that delivers musical performances to people with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia that live in long-term care facilities. The project is a blend of nursing, music performance, music therapy, and behavioral science, and is a partnership between ASU, the Phoenix Symphony, the Huger Mercy Living Center, and the Maravilla Care Center. Huger was the first facility to pilot the research in 2015, followed by Maravilla at the end of 2016.

Dr. David W. Coon, Associate Dean of R.I.S.E. (Research Initiatives, Support and Engagement) at the ASU College of Nursing and Health Innovation (CONHI), leads the project with colleagues Robin Rio, Director of the ASU Music Therapy Clinic in the Herberger Institute School of Music, and Dr. Marianne McCarthy, CONHI Associate Professor.

Coon recently spoke at the Gerontological Society of America Annual Meeting in New Orleans. He discussed the development of the project, overall findings at Huger, and preliminary findings at Maravilla.

Residents monitored at both facilities were in the moderate-to-later stages of dementia. According to Coon and his colleagues, Huger residents who attended the music-based intervention showed higher levels of positive mood and lower levels of distress as evaluated by nurses and activity coordinators.

While data analyses are still in progress at Maravilla, initial findings indicate that residents who listened to music in the early part of the day were more cooperative during nighttime activities such as eating dinner and bathing.

“We are interested in exploring the project to see whether [this work] can be replicated in other environments, but also to better understand the mechanisms of change that are in play,” Coon said.

Coon says that they hope to pursue more substantial funding at the federal level to continue the exploration of music-based interventions.