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Astonishing — Music beats Parkinson’s, dementia? Yes!

By Paul Wallis     Mar 8, 2016 in Health
Sydney - The grim truths of Parkinson’s and dementia are all too well known. The level of mental dysfunction is appalling. Imagine finding out that music can reconnect mental functions and restore memories, almost literally bringing people back to normal.
The Australian science show Catalyst has a fascinating story on this new research, which is producing some quite astonishing, and very touching, results. One man said that it was like having “mum of old” back. A gentleman with significant motor issues caused by Parkinson’s was able to dance. A man barely able to speak, and suffering regular severe agitation as a result of his condition was soon happily singing (!!!???!!!) along with “It’s a long way to Tipperary,” and a woman with “Lili Marlene.”
The theory and practice of music therapy for these conditions have been around for some time, but this is a new breakthrough, and the higher levels of functionality in these new test subjects are quite obvious.
These dysfunctional medical conditions are also critical issues for aged care, in a global environment of a large aging population. Families and public health systems are taking on an increasing tonnage of older people with problems, and this could be a real solution.
This study is fascinating in so many ways. One theory is that music dates back to pre-linguistic times in human development. Babies, in fact, demonstrate the acquisition of non-lingual sounds, and also deliver their own versions of those sounds.
The result is that humans are now fully hardwired to respond to music, unlike other species. EEG scans indicate that the entire human brain lights up, when exposed to music. These findings support the basic theory very effectively.
This new therapy is based, aptly enough, on a “personal playlist” approach. The playlists are tailored to the individual. They include songs from youth, and the music apparently triggers memory functions, and other atrophied brain capacity, rebooting the brain.
Researchers aren’t famous for being reticent about their work, but in this case even they were left almost speechless by their results. Aged care workers reported drastic improvements in difficult conditions. Others were simply over the moon, and equally struggling to find words, about the musical therapies.
Seeing is believing, and I’m still getting my head around the ramifications of this work. I’m not going to spoil the experience by babbling on endlessly. Check out the Catalyst Music on the Brain transcript, and hopefully the video, (which should be available to all internet viewers, hint, hint, ABC Australia) and see how long it is before your jaw drops.
Meanwhile, think about what your personal playlist would be. Mine would be pretty eclectic:
Paint It Black, Jumping Jack Flash – The Rolling Stones
I Am A Rock, Sounds Of Silence – Simon and Garfunkel
Magic Bus, I Can See For Miles – The Who
Money – Pink Floyd
White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
Beethoven’s Ninth
Handel’s Water Music – Hornpipe
Any Beatles hit single
Instant Karma – Plastic Ono Band
Maybe I’m Amazed – Paul McCartney
Anyone who wants to reboot that mindset, you do so at your own risk.
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