Music therapy can improve Alzheimer’s disease treatment

he psychologist Milagro Mendoza Landi gives her talk to students of Health Sciences
he psychologist Milagro Mendoza Landi gives her talk to students of Health Sciences

During the second semester, our Faculty of Health Sciences will organize different talk sessions on Wednesdays under the name “Los miércoles hablamos de salud“. The purpose is to provide students with a broader knowledge about different branches of health-related studies. There will be some guests coming from hospitals to give general concepts and patients invited to share their experiences. This week the topic was ‘Alzheimer’s disease’.

First of all, a pharmacist presented her thesis about her research on the time that takes the disease to be outburst and the ways one can check for Alzheimer.

Next, a psychologist took the floor by giving us the basic knowledge about the illness. In 1906, German neurologist Alois Alzheimer discovered the first patient, Auguste Deter. The most recognizable symptom is the loss of memory, which can last from 2 to 20 years to show up. There are 35 million people suffering from this disease nowadays.

Each case develops in a different manner, but in general, it progresses in 3 phases:

  • Mild (early- stage) varies from 2 to 5 years. The patient is still independent and recognized the situation. Thus, the person will feel insecure and easily distracted.
  • Moderated (mid- phase): the patient shows more dependence on the personal assistant. I will call it a 3A phase as it’s defined by Aphasia- which is the inability of produce speech, apraxia- an inability of performing actions, and agnosia- an inability of perceiving sensations. All of these are the results of brain damage when the cells die and are not able to regenerate.
  • Severe (late- phase) is when the patient is totally dependent on the personal assistant and has many problems regarding daily habit, for example, the patient does not sleep at night or does not say anything.

Treatments can be 2 types:

  • Taking medications which inhibit acetylcholine, such as Donepezil (Aricept) is approved to treat all stages of Alzheimer. Rivastigmine (Exelon) and Galantamine is approved to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer. NMDA receptor antagonist has also alleviated the illness.
  • Non-drug method is more popular and these are the examples: fysioterapi (Pixels, music therapy), multi-sensory (snoezelen), multimedia therapy done on computer (neuro UP & smartbrain program)  

Next in the session, a music therapist gave a talk about her specialty. She said that a music therapist does not have to be a genius musician, but the one who can, through music, facilitate and promote the communication & memory of patients. However, don’t get me wrong, the patient will not be completely cured by this treatment; it develops, restores as well as increases the physical, the mental and emotional productivity of the person by using all types of sounds, music, rhythm, melodies, and harmonies.

The processes are shown here:

The process of music therapy treatment.
The process of music therapy treatment.

What are the benefits of music therapy on the people with the disease?  It has been observed that the patient’s ability to memorize lyrics of what they have heard,  interact and communicate with other patients increase positively.  
Lastly, a group of elderly people from the association of Alzheimer were invited to demonstrate the effectiveness of the music therapy. You can also participate in volunteer activities and have more experiences for your current degree!

I think it is a very useful activity for us students and we will gain a lot of knowledge in the next study years. The only challenge is that these talks are conducted in Spanish, which makes it for first and second-year international students a bit hard to follow. Do not worry, as a student of Health Sciences, I will update the newest information from now on so keep track!

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