Neurologic Music Therapy and People with Dementia – Can it help?

Dementia, and its various forms, is a disease that often changes the personality of the individual, which may include agitation, wandering, and other behaviors that are difficult to manage in the home.  Caregivers are challenged to deal with these symptoms and sometimes have to resort to moving their loved one to a facility. Over the years I have worked with individuals diagnosed with various forms of dementia in both home settings and in facilities.  Music therapy has proven over and over to be a positive form of therapy that can redirect unpleasant behaviors and give caregivers an opportunity to share a special time with their loved one.

Researchers piloted a study using a specific form of music therapy, Neurologic Music Therapy, using three targeted techniques to help caregivers in the home with their loved one who demonstrates some of the challenging behaviors mentioned above.  This unique study found that while not everyone who started the study was able to finish, and those that did showed their “neuropsychiatric symptom scores improved at 6 weeks, an effect that was sustained at 12 weeks” (p. 266). Researchers also deducted that starting the therapy prior to the symptoms and behaviors reaching a certain level of severity would reduce caregiver stress and increase the quality of life for both the individual with dementia and caregiver.  Further investigations plan to implement these techniques at an earlier stage of the disease process and give caregivers ample time to learn the techniques so they can feel comfortable implementing them in the home without the therapist present.

For more information on music therapy, visit our website at or the American Music Therapy Association’s website at

Stephanie H. Morris, MM, MT-BC

Neurologic Music Therapy Fellow

Central Ohio Music Therapy, LLC


Holden, S., K., Sheffler, J., Stewart, R., Thompson, S., Persson J., Finseth, T., Sillau S., and Kluger B. M. (2019).  Feasibility of home-based neurologic music therapy for behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia: A Pilot Study.  Journal of Music Therapy, 56(3), 2019, 265 – 286, doi:10.1093/jmt/thz009.