Music therapy and Alzheimer's disease: Cognitive, psychological, and behavioural effects

Neurologia. 2017 Jun;32(5):300-308. doi: 10.1016/j.nrl.2015.12.003. Epub 2016 Feb 17.
[Article in English, Spanish]


Introduction: Music therapy is one of the types of active ageing programmes which are offered to elderly people. The usefulness of this programme in the field of dementia is beginning to be recognised by the scientific community, since studies have reported physical, cognitive, and psychological benefits. Further studies detailing the changes resulting from the use of music therapy with Alzheimer patients are needed.

Objectives: Determine the clinical improvement profile of Alzheimer patients who have undergone music therapy.

Patients and methods: Forty-two patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer disease underwent music therapy for 6 weeks. The changes in results on the Mini-mental State Examination, Neuropsychiatric Inventory, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and Barthel Index scores were studied. We also analysed whether or not these changes were influenced by the degree of dementia severity.

Results: Significant improvement was observed in memory, orientation, depression and anxiety (HAD scale) in both mild and moderate cases; in anxiety (NPI scale) in mild cases; and in delirium, hallucinations, agitation, irritability, and language disorders in the group with moderate Alzheimer disease. The effect on cognitive measures was appreciable after only 4 music therapy sessions.

Conclusions: In the sample studied, music therapy improved some cognitive, psychological, and behavioural alterations in patients with Alzheimer disease. Combining music therapy with dance therapy to improve motor and functional impairment would be an interesting line of research.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; Cognición; Cognition; Enfermedad de Alzheimer; Music therapy; Musicoterapia; Neuropsychiatric symptoms; Síntomas neuropsiquiátricos.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology
  • Alzheimer Disease / therapy*
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Status and Dementia Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Music Therapy / methods*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data