Smell may be the sense most associated with memory, but hearing just took a big leap in the same direction.
Alive Inside, a documentary premiering next week in New York, investigates a social worker's attempt to engage seniors with dementia and Alzheimer's at a nursing home. When he discovers how well it works, he brings in neurologist Oliver Sacks, and the two embark on an experiment to see music's impact on this population.
The video above has become a viral hit as more people discover it, and it's no surprise -- people's connection with music, particularly music from their younger years, elicits strong emotions, and some researchers have even suggested it as a necessity for people.
Ray Mueller, a member of the Shumei Arts Council of America’s Advisory Board, told Psychology Suite 101, “Research has located specific areas of mental activity linked to emotional responses to music. It seems music is a human need and the brain is able to act as a function to satisfy that need.”
The video is also affiliated with Music & Memory, an organization dedicated to helping seniors connect to music, including collecting used iPods for donation.
SEE: The positive things music can do for the brain:
Both listening to music and making music can help reduce symptoms of depression, both by distraction and by helping people express their emotions.
Many people have playlists they feel inspire them while working (and The Huffington Post has a them for sections too!), but it's more than just entertainment. The rhythm of music can actually help with creativity and letting thoughts wander in directions not considered previously.
Musical mnemonics have long been used as study aids for students, but thanks to music's emotional connection, it has also been found to spark memories in patients with Alzheimer's and dementia.
Like so many skills, music can help those who learn it build confidence. But playing music seems to have a particular effect on children's feeling of self-esteem, whether it's through performing in front of a crowd or feeling like they've mastered a certain song.
Playing and listening to music can help in learning, whether it's through improved reading skills, or helping the brain become more flexible when taking in information.
According to studies, music (along with some heating pads) can be as calming as a massage when listened to in a relaxed setting.