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Memory Playlists - Exploring the link between music and dementia

Thursday, December 1st, 2016 | Blog

The link between music and dementia is an interesting one, while we don’t fully understand it, the positive effects of it on those living with dementia can’t be ignored. There’s something about the simplicity of music that can help bring a sense of normality to a person suffering from dementia. A lot of this is to do with the area of the brain that processes music. The auditory cortex is responsible for processing and relaying music to the rest of the brain. At just 16 weeks old, children are able to process music so it’s no surprise that certain pieces of music are linked to some of the earliest memories people have.


The Memory Playlist project is all about using the intense links between music and memories to help those suffering from dementia. Even though dementia slowly reduces the brain's ability to recall past memories, the auditory cortex can help the brain access memories otherwise made inaccessible by the buildup of beta-amyloid. The project was the idea of Hannah Peel, an Irish musician that wanted to help her nan by creating a music playlist to help alleviate her dementia symptoms.


With a little bit of research on a specific era and personal knowledge of a relative's personal taste, it is possible to build a memory tape. This is a personalised playlist of songs that are likely to evoke memories in those that have dementia. The personal nature of a playlist like this can help people with dementia return to themselves, if only for a brief moment.


Creating a playlist for a loved one with dementia is incredibly valuable, but there is no harm in creating one for yourself. Considering there are currently 850,000 people in the United Kingdom with some form of dementia, and this figure is set to raise to over 1 million by 2025.


We asked a few members of the Kare Plus support team to list us their most memorable and important songs from their memorable years;


Moby - Porcelain

The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony

Elvis - In The Ghetto

Johann Pachelbel - Canon In D Major

N-Trance - Set Me Free

Robin S - Show Me Love

Buffalo Springfield - For What It’s Worth

Leftfield - Swords

Chase and Status - Blind Faith

A Tribe Called Quest - Electric Relaxation

Fleetwood Mac - Second Hand News

Bill Medley, Jennifer Waynes - I’ve Had The Time Of My Life

Ryuichi Sakamoto - Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence


It’s incredibly easy to create your own playlist and there are many platforms available for you to store your most important songs; YouTube will allow you to create playlists and so does Spotify and Apple Music. Online services will save your choices for you to come back to at any point, but there is no reason you can’t just write them down.


For those that live with dementia, music can often be one of the primary sources of happiness during the day, a fleeting moment that sends people back to a time before they lost themselves to dementia.


What do you think of the choices from the Kare Plus team? Why don’t you let us know what songs you would add to your playlist?

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