A high-powered review has been conducted to assess the effectiveness of music-based interventions (“music therapy”), involving at least five sessions, for improving the emotional well-being of people with dementia. Outcomes investigated included alterations in quality of life, mood disturbance, behavioural problems, aspects of social behaviour, and cognition following the therapy.
The researchers were unable to draw many firm conclusions.
“Providing people with dementia with at least five sessions of a music-based therapeutic intervention probably reduces depressive symptoms but has little or no effect on agitation or aggression. There may also be little or no effect on emotional well-being or quality of life, overall behavioural problems and cognition. We are uncertain about effects on anxiety or social behaviour, and about any long-term effects”.
As often happens, this Cochrane Review points to the need for more well-conducted research, reminding the reader of the high level of vigilance required to minimise risks of bias when performing, or interpreting, primary research projects investigating non-pharmacological interventions.
van der Steen, JT. van Soest-Poortvliet, MC. [and] van der Wouden, JC. [et al] (2017). Music-based therapeutic interventions for people with dementia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. May 2nd 2017; 5: CD003477. [Epub ahead of print].
There is also an Executive Summary.