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Singing may boost brain activity in Alzheimer's patients

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Singing songs from hit musicals such as 'The Sound of Music' can boost the brain function of people suffering from Alzheimer's disease, new research claims.

Positive cognitive changes in healthy elderly and dementia populations exposed to singing may lead to cognitive improvement over time, researchers said.

"Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer's Disease," lead author Linda Maguire wrote in an abstract explaining the study.

Longitudinal studies in the field of vocal music and cognition in the elderly are rare, according to a study presented at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in San Diego.

The purpose of the study by researchers from George Mason University in Virginia was to examine cognitive changes in vocal-music participants before and after a 4-month series of music programming.

Singing and listening groups were given 50-minute vocal-music sessions thrice per week at an East Coast Elder-care facility that housed Secure-ward (dementia) residents.

The study was conducted at a care home in the east coast of America.

Half of the 18 dementia patients involved were invited to take part in the sessions per week for four months, performing familiar songs from The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, The Wizard of Oz and Pinocchio, while the other half only listened.

Patients who joined in the singing improved their scores in cognitive tests, with scans revealing that singing sparked activity in several regions of their brain, 'The Telegraph' reported.

They also performed better at a task which required them to draw the hands onto a clock face to represent a designated time.

These data show that participation in an active singing programme for an extended period of time can improve cognition in patients with moderate to severe dementia.

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First Published: Wed, November 13 2013. 17:45 IST