Study after study has proven that music affects the brain positively or negatively depending on the circumstances. It can trigger memories, both good and bad, but the key phrase here is “trigger memories” as the wife of an Alzheimer’s patient in Wisconsin is finding out.
Bill Paese is an 82-year-old Alzheimer’s patient at the Rocky Knoll Health Care Center in Plymouth, Wis. For most of his life Bill sang in a barber shop quartet. According to his wife, Jean, an iPod playlist of barber shop music allows her to see glimpses of the man she married 53 years ago.
“He’s in there,” Jean told ABC News‘ Byron Pitts, “and sometimes we get to see him.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are afflicted with the disease. It’s the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
While researchers are careful to point out that listening to music is by no means a cure, it is believed that familiar music can activate enough areas of the brain to create connections and retrieve memories once thought lost.
In 2010, Dan Cohen, a social worker in New York, created the Music & Memory program in order for people to donate iPods for use by Alzheimer’s patients. To date the organization has collected approximately 10,000 iPods. The goal is 1 million. You can find information on how to donate here.
Music is truly amazing.