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Alzheimer’s Prevention is Music to Your Ears-How Music can Help with Alzheimer’s

Posted by on Friday, March 29th, 2013

The power of music to heal has been known for centuries, but only in the last few years has this principle has been tested in a lab to prove whether or not it’s really true.  Researchers are currently using music therapy to treat various aspects of cognitive degeneration and most importantly to help with Alzheimer’s disease.

music therapy and the brain for help with Alzheimer's

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Music has long been known to promote health and healing in people of all ages, including lullabies and soothing music played to children for recovery.  Only recently has medical science started to realize the many ways that music therapy can help to promote brain health. 


A very small study conducted by the psychology department at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon revealed that musical therapy brought about positive results in individuals with Alzheimer’s.  The study only involved 20 participants, but the results were conclusive.  Participants were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and tested prior to the study.  They were then introduced to musical therapy 2 times per week for 20-30 minutes.  The participants were then retested at 2 week intervals to see if progress was being made.  What they found out was that participants improved in both speech content and fluency.  And this was just after a short and limited exposure to music, which means that greater exposure could reveal even more significant results.

In another study involving music therapy and those with Alzheimer’s, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami School of Medicine conducted a study to investigate the release of neurotransmitters and hormone release during music sessions.  The point of the study was to find out if music could be used in Alzheimer’s patients to reduce anxiety. The individuals were given between 30 and 40 minutes of music therapy 5 times per week for a total of 4 weeks.  The results again were positive and researchers found a significant increase in the levels of melatonin in the brain of those who listened to music therapy, which resulted in a more relaxed mood.  These studies are indicating that music can have a profound effect on the processes that occur in the brain.  

Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine also set out to prove that music would have a positive effect on patients with Alzheimer’s. The study involved participants that had Alzheimer’s as well as those without the disease to be used as a control group.  The two different subject groups were then presented with lyrics on a screen and an auditory presentation of either the lyrics being read or the lyrics being sung.  After the participants listened to and saw the lyrics, they were then asked if they were familiar with the song prior to the study.  The results were that those who listened to the lyrics being sung were able to recognize the lyrics better than those who only had the lyrics read to them.  The conclusion is that the music triggers stimulation that activates memory centers in the brain, and engages the brain in a more robust way than when presented with just spoken or written forms of communication.

Music therapy and alzheimer's prevention

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Some of this activation of the brain could be explained by studies done at the University of California Davis.  The research done there involved brain mapping that showed the prefrontal cortex became activated while listening to music.  The prefrontal cortex is responsible with things like intelligence, and personality, which in Alzheimer’s patients remains intact longer than other areas of the brain.  This is an important discovery because it shows through mapping how Alzheimer’s traverses through the brain, but also gives an indication that memory access via the cortex is still possible even in those suffering from Alzheimer’s.  All of this leads researchers into a further understanding of this disease.

The Mediterranean Diet to Help with Alzheimer’s

Why not try a healthy snack to eat while relaxing and listening to your favorite music for Alzheimer’s nutrition?  Some ideas for healthy snacks for the Alzheimer’s diet include; 

  • 1 glass of red wine with cashews and low fat cheese
  • A favorite snack-dark chocolate with cayenne pepper kick melted in almond milk for a spicy chocolate drink-yum!
  • Soy yogurt with fresh blueberries, raspberries, walnuts and bananas
  • Coffee latte’ with almond milk sweetened with Stevia
  • “Just Black Cherry” juice with no added sugar, with club soda sweetened to taste with stevia
  • Green tea latte’ with almond or soy milk, sweetened with agave nectar or stevia
  • Raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, and cauliflower to dip in low fat ranch dip or better yet, protein rich hummus-part of the Mediterranean diet

There are many healthy snacks available on the Mediterranean diet that is also brain healthy foods that help with Alzheimer’s. 

Recipe for Healthy Alzheimer’s prevention snack that tastes great!

Olive and Feta spread with Rice Crackers

Healthy mediterranean snack for help with Alzheimer's

Image Source: Cooking Light



1 cup Kalamata olives sliced (can combine with Spanish olives or any other type of your choice)

1 cup low fat feta cheese,

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon- plus the zest

4 cloves garlic pressed in garlic press more to taste

1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

¼ tsp. red pepper flakes more to taste

Freshly ground pepper to taste 


Combine all ingredients and serve on gluten free or rice crackers. Note it tastes best when refrigerated overnight before serving.

In Summary

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating disease that continues to wreak havoc on an increasingly large segment of the population.  Music therapy seems to be an effective antidote for some of the negative symptoms experienced by those with the disease.  Researchers are continuing to look into the value of music therapy to treat a wide variety of disorders, Alzheimer’s just happens to be on the radar currently.  And who knows maybe someday the cure will be found in a Beethoven classic!


For more easy to follow nutrition advice check out The Alzheimer’s Diet: A Step-by-Step Nutritional Approach to Memory Loss Prevention and Treatment, or visit to learn more about Neurologist, Dr. Richard Isaacson's 9 week diet plan and his cutting edge approach in the fight against AD in Alzheimer's Treatment | Alzheimer's Prevention: A Patient and Family Guide 2012 Edition. Also, sign up for the newsletter to get the latest updates in AD treatment and prevention news.

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