The effect of music therapy on cognitive functions in patients with Alzheimer's disease: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials

Alzheimers Res Ther. 2023 Mar 27;15(1):65. doi: 10.1186/s13195-023-01214-9.


Background: The use of music interventions as a non-pharmacological therapy to improve cognitive and behavioral symptoms in Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients has gained popularity in recent years, but the evidence for their effectiveness remains inconsistent.

Objectives: To summarize the evidence of the effect of music therapy (alone or in combination with pharmacological therapies) on cognitive functions in AD patients compared to those without the intervention.

Methods: A systematic literature search was performed in PubMed, Cochrane library, and HINARI for papers published from 1 January 2012 to 25 June 2022. All randomized controlled trials that compared music therapy with standard care or other non-musical intervention and evaluation of cognitive functions are included. Cognitive outcomes included: global cognition, memory, language, speed of information processing, verbal fluency, and attention. Quality assessment and narrative synthesis of the studies were performed.

Results: A total of 8 studies out of 144 met the inclusion criteria (689 participants, mean age range 60.47-87.1). Of the total studies, 4 were conducted in Europe (2 in France, 2 in Spain), 3 in Asia (2 in China, 1 in Japan), and 1 in the USA. Quality assessment of the retrieved studies revealed that 6 out of 8 studies were of high quality. The results showed that compared to different control groups, there is an improvement in cognitive functions after music therapy application. A greater effect was shown when patients are involved in the music making when using active music intervention (AMI).

Conclusion: The results of this review highlight the potential benefits of music therapy as a complementary treatment option for individuals with AD and the importance of continued investigation in this field. More research is needed to fully understand the effects of music therapy, to determine the optimal intervention strategy, and to assess the long-term effects of music therapy on cognitive functions.

Keywords: AD; Alzheimer’s disease; Cognitive functions; Music intervention; Music therapy.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease* / psychology
  • Alzheimer Disease* / therapy
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Music Therapy* / methods
  • Music*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic