Arizona State University and The Phoenix Symphony work together on ground-breaking Alzheimer's research

Thursday May 26, 2016

ASU Now: Access, Excellence, Impact
Kelsey Wharton






ASU music project helps people living with Alzheimer’s connect to long-term memories, emotions

A violinist bows an expectant note as she tunes her instrument alongside other Phoenix Symphony musicians. They assume the “ready” position, waiting for the cue to begin.

The small group sitting before them in a semicircle is a somewhat unique audience: It is made up of men and women living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, their professional caregivers and a few family members. They are participants in Arizona State University’s Music & Memory project at the Huger Mercy Living Center, an assisted-living facility in Phoenix.

The musicians begin their piece, an energetic and upbeat melody. Some of the men and women clap along to the lively tune as music fills the room. Others, at first, look past the performers as if they are not there.

As the concert continues, the musicians vary the repertoire with pieces that are triumphantly loud or quietly meditative. Soon, even the people who seemed unaware of the performance become actively engaged.

Music can help people living with Alzheimer’s connect to long-term memories and emotions in a positive way, according to David Coon, associate vice provost and professor in ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

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