Music and dementia: Can music stimulate the brain?

music therapy for residents with dementia

The BBC and The Open University have co-produced a new two-part series, presented by Vicky McClure, to scientifically explore the extent and impact of music on people with dementia (BBC Media Centre, 2019).

Over the past 10 years, several controlled studies have been carried out to investigate the effect of music interventions on people living with dementia. Positive results have been measured in areas such as cognition, mood and quality of life, and singing in particular has improved working memory for sufferers of mild dementia (Sihvonen, 2017).

Meaningful activity should be seen as an integral part of a person’s overall care in the care home, but the quality of stimulation provided varies greatly across providers. Inadequately trained staff and budgetary constraints are just two of the challenges a care home manager may face when trying to adopt a person-centred activity programme.

However, it is a long-standing myth that only the person employed to deliver activities must deliver them. Any staff member from the domestic staff to the maintenance team, can get involved and help to incorporate music into care home life. There is a plethora of resources online from reputable sources such as Age UK and the Alzheimer’s society, that provide useful tips, advice and low budget suggestions for incorporating music-based interventions into your residents’ daily life.

The benefits of music in dementia care is not a new concept, but efforts to raise awareness of the subject, and its measurable positive effects, can only serve to benefit dementia communities across the country.

Series One of Our Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure is currently available on BBC iPlayer (BBC, 2019).


Guest blogger Vickie Wylde RGN,
former care home manager


BBC Media Centre. (2019) Our dementia choir with Vicky McClure. [Online].

Sihvonen A, Sarkamo T, Leo V, et al. (2017) Music-based interventions in neurological rehabilitation. The Lancet 16(8): 648–660. PMID: 28663005; DOI: 10.1016/S1474-4422(17)30168-0


Playlist for Life.

Age UK. Dementia and music.

Alzheimer’s Reading Room. The power of music in Alzheimer’s disease.

DSCD (The Dementia Centre). Dementia and music – CPD resources.