Okla. doctors bring hope for Alzheimer’s with music

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NORMAN, Okla. - Many of us know how difficult Alzheimer's and dementia can be on patients and families.

Seeing them lose memories and abilities to perform daily tasks can be devastating.

However, with music therapy, Oklahoma therapists are making memory breakthroughs.

Just a strum of a guitar can take you back to a place and time.

We've all experienced the power of music, but could a simple tune bring back memories once thought inaccessible, erased by Alzheimer's?

"It's very frustrating to her, she can't stand being this way," Marla Hardee said.

Her other, 68-year-old Anetta Drager, can't remember the simplest things; if it's time to eat, if she's taking her life-saving medicine.

She was diagnosed with dementia five years ago.

"It's tough to not be able to remember which grandchild you're talking to or that your daughter's standing right there in front of you," Hardee said.
However, with music playing, the former line dancer claps along, seeming to remember who she once was.She recalls the types of music she listened to, a lost piece from the past.
"I do remember seeing her dance, two-stepping, square dancing,"Hardee said. "Seemed to be the happiest girl in the world on the dance floor."
Music Therapists Jennifer Voss said music is the key to unlocking memories deleted by disease.
"It's very powerful," Voss said. "I'm very passionate about music therapy."

When you play an instrument, when you listen to your favorite song, studies show it triggers chemicals in our brain.

The same goes for Alzheimer patients when listening to their favorite music.

They show improvements in behavior and speech, even recall old stories.

"Music accesses the parts of the brain related to emotion," Voss said. "It can access those emotions and tune in and that's when we see that long-term memory recall."During music therapy, patients sing along, work on motor skills and work on communication skills.

They walk away relaxed, needing less medication.

Voss has even seen patients learn new material in song form.

"If you catch them in early stages, you might be able to train someone to learn their name, their age, their address, their phone number in a song," Voss said.
Meanwhile, witnessing their loved ones brought back to life brings relief from the disease for family.
"She was so happy. That was pretty awesome to sit and watch," Hardee said.
A powerful tool that clears the path to memory lane.Just a simple tune can bring someone back to the life they once lived.
To learn more about music therapy, click here.