What is it about?

Music therapy has been suggested to have beneficial effects for patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but there is a lack of research investigating this issue. This study aims to evaluate the effects of music therapy and physical activity on brain plasticity, mood, and cognition in a population with AD and at risk for AD. The study involves a group of 135 participants with memory complaints who will be recruited for a parallel, three-arm Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT). Participants will be randomised into either a music therapy intervention (singing lessons), an active control group (physical activity), or a passive control group (no intervention) for 12 months. The primary outcomes are the brain age gap, measured via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and depressive symptoms. Secondary outcomes include cognitive performance, activities of daily living, brain structure, and brain function. This study aims to enhance knowledge regarding cost-effective interventions with potentially high clinical applicability.

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Why is it important?

This study is unique in that it is the first randomized controlled trial investigating the therapeutic effects of music on the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Anecdotal evidence suggests that music therapy can benefit AD patients, but rigorous research is needed to establish an evidence base for its effectiveness. The results of this study may have significant implications for the treatment of AD patients, as it may demonstrate that music therapy can be an effective and cost-effective means of improving brain plasticity, mood, and cognition in this population. This could lead to wider application of music therapy in clinical settings and potentially save health-care systems significant amounts of money in the long term. Ultimately, this study may help to improve the quality of life for AD patients and their caregivers.


With this project, a dream comes true for me as a brain-scientist, psychologist, and musician. As someone who has long believed in the therapeutic effects of music, it is exciting to see this rigorous investigation into its effects on brain plasticity, mood, and cognition in patients with Alzheimer's Disease and those at risk for it. While there is anecdotal evidence for the benefits of music therapy in AD patients, there is still much to be scientifically proven in this area. My hope is that this study will contribute to establishing an evidence base for the therapeutic effects of music in AD patients, leading to wider application of music therapy as an effective and cost-effective means of treatment. Ultimately, I hope to devote my future career to providing more scientific knowledge about the therapeutic effects of music in the brain, helping patients not only with neurodegenerative diseases but also with a range of other diseases and disorders.

Stefan Koelsch
University of Bergen

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Study protocol for the Alzheimer and music therapy study: An RCT to compare the efficacy of music therapy and physical activity on brain plasticity, depressive symptoms, and cognitive decline, in a population with and at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, PLoS ONE, June 2022, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0270682.
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