Efficacy of music therapy in the treatment of behavioral and psychiatric symptoms of dementia

Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. Apr-Jun 2008;22(2):158-62. doi: 10.1097/WAD.0b013e3181630b6f.


Background: Music therapy (MT) has been proposed as valid approach for behavioral and psychologic symptoms (BPSD) of dementia. However, studies demonstrating the effectiveness of this approach are lacking.

Objective: To assess MT effectiveness in reducing BPSD in subjects with dementia.

Method: Fifty-nine persons with dementia were enrolled in this study. All of them underwent a multidimensional assessment including Mini Mental State Examination, Barthel Index and Neuropsychiatry Inventory at enrollment and after 8, 16, and 20 weeks. Subjects were randomly assigned to experimental (n=30) or control (n=29) group. The MT sessions were evaluated with standardized criteria. The experimental group received 30 MT sessions (16 wk of treatment), whereas the control group received educational support or entertainment activities.

Results: NPI total score significantly decreased in the experimental group at 8th, 16th, and 20th weeks (interaction time x group: F3,165=5.06, P=0.002). Specific BPSD (ie, delusions, agitation, anxiety, apathy, irritability, aberrant motor activity, and night-time disturbances) significantly improved. The empathetic relationship and the patients' active participation in the MT approach, also improved in the experimental group.

Conclusions: The study shows that MT is effective to reduce BPSD in patients with moderate-severe dementia.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Behavioral Symptoms / etiology
  • Behavioral Symptoms / psychology
  • Behavioral Symptoms / therapy
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Dementia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Music Therapy*
  • Neurotic Disorders / etiology
  • Neurotic Disorders / psychology
  • Neurotic Disorders / therapy
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychomotor Agitation / etiology
  • Psychomotor Agitation / psychology
  • Psychomotor Agitation / therapy
  • Sampling Studies
  • Treatment Outcome