Music therapy for people with dementia

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004:(3):CD003477. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003477.pub2.


Background: Dementia is a clinical syndrome with a number of different causes which is characterised by deterioration in cognitive functions. Research is pursuing a variety of promising findings for the treatment of dementia. Pharmacological interventions are available but have limited ability to treat many of the syndrome's features. Little research has been directed towards non-pharmacological treatments. In this review the evidence for music therapy as a treatment is examined.

Objectives: To assess the effects of music therapy in the treatment of behavioural, social, cognitive and emotional problems of older people with dementia.

Search strategy: The Cochrane Dementia and Cognitive Improvement Group (CDCIG) Specialised Register was searched on 30 June 2003 using the term "music*". This Register contains records from all major health care databases and many ongoing trial databases and is updated regularly. The principal reviewer conducted additional searches to retrieve randomised controlled trials (RCTs) concerning the effect of music therapy on older people with dementia.

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials that reported clinically relevant outcomes associated with music therapy in treatment of behavioural, social, cognitive and emotional problems of older people with dementia.

Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers screened retrieved studies independently for methodological quality using a checklist. Data from accepted studies were independently extracted by the reviewers.

Main results: Five studies were included. The methodological quality of the studies was generally poor and the study results could not be validated or pooled for further analyses.

Reviewers' conclusions: The methodological quality and the reporting of the included studies were too poor to draw any useful conclusions.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Dementia / rehabilitation
  • Dementia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Music Therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic