How music can help recall memories

Music against dementia

Multiple studies have found that music can help people living with dementia recall memories and emotions of the past, which they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.





The past, which is not recoverable in any other way, is embedded, as if in amber, in the music, and people can regain a sense of identity…”   — Oliver Sacks, M.D.

There are multiple reasons why researchers believe that music boosts brain activity.

Firstly, music brings out emotions and emotions carry memories within it. Neurologist Oliver Sacks states that, “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory… it brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.” In our films, we use the favourite music tracks of the star and if regularly watched or listened to, the music can help them recall memories, which improves cognitive ability over time.

Secondly, music allows dementia patients to tap into two of the last remaining abilities that they have. Linda Maguire, lead author on one of the studies wrote, “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s.” Therefore, music is a great way to connect with a person living with dementia, even in the later stages of the disease.

Thirdly, listening to music and singing actively stimulates both halves of the brain. When listening to music, one often begins to sing along to the tune or the words and while listening to music activates the left side of the brain, singing actives the right-hand side. Henceforth, patients display more cognitive ability than usual.

Fourthly, music can alter patients emotions for the better. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America states that “When music therapy is used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements.”

Finally, music allows dementia patients to share emotions with caregivers and family members. Music often invites people to dance, which can lead to more intimate relationships of touching and hugging. This allows patients to feel secure and lets them to open up.

My Life Films’ biographical film packages include all the favourite music tracks of the person living with dementia.

Find out more about our free dementia films