Music Can Help Alzheimer’s Patients

‘Alive Inside’: New documentary shows how music can reawaken Alzheimer’s patients
Seniors with iPods regain their past after listening to their favorite music.
Wed, Apr 11 2012 at 2:33 PM
Alive Inside

Photo: Still from Alive Inside

It’s been said that music calms the savage beast, but the right music can also awaken someone who has, in effect, been slumbering.
The new documentary “Alive Inside” shows the transformative power of music as several elderly dementia patients are given iPods loaded with their favorite music. The previously unresponsive seniors quickly start to tap their toes, swing their hands, and, incredibly, start having long discussions about their passion for music and its role in their lives.
In the following clip from the film, a man named Henry — who normally sits quietly in his chair, hunched over, barely speaking — comes alive after listening to music. Asked about his favorite music, he starts talking about Cab Calloway, and even starts to sing some of his favorite songs:
Henry becomes especially impassioned when he is asked what music means to him. “It gives me the feeling of love, romance,” he says. “I figure right now the world needs to come into music. The Lord came to me and made me holy, I’m a holy man. So he give me these sounds.”
The film, produced and directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett, follows social worker Dan Cohen as he exposes more patients like Henry to music and watches them reawaken. Cohen is executive director for the non-profit organization Music & Memory, which collects and donates iPods to patients in nursing homes. The non-profit also provides information and resources for health-care workers seeking to establish music therapy programs for their patients.
World-famous neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks — best known as the author of the booksAwakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Musicophilia — appears in the film. “Music imprints itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience,” Sacks says in the clip above. “Music evokes emotion and emotion can bring with it memory” and “brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”
The filmmakers have had an early trailer online for more than a year, but it has exploded in recent days, spreading around Facebook and the social news site Reddit. And it’s just in time: “Alive Inside” will have its world premiere April 18 at the Rubin Museum in New York City.

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