Music has the power to move us. It conjures up memories of days and moments gone by and can emit emotions that we may not even know we’re feeling until one particular song moves us to our core.
Music can also mend minds. Based out of Los Angeles, Music Mends Minds: Restoring the Rhythm of Life (MMM) is a non-profit that’s hitting just the right note for people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and PTSD.
Studies show that music memory remains intact in people dealing with various brain illnesses, despite the disease process. “It’s therapeutic for all involved – patients, family, caregivers and the community at large,” says Carol Rosenstein, co-founder and director of Music Mends Minds, adding that the power of music has a direct effect on the brain. “As our community of patients waits for a cure, MMM is constantly updating our research information on how music benefits the mind and the brain.” Rosenstein cites MMM’s public awareness and educational program that shares new research findings which support their model of using music as medicine.
Playing a musical instrument is even more impactful as it is likened to a full-body workout for the brain integrating motor, sensory and auditory functions. Research shows that patients with Alzheimer’s disease may forget certain melodic content of songs, but their ability to play their musical instrument seems to be unforgettable.
Approximately 5.7 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and every 9 minutes someone is diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Many of these patients fade away, but music, says Rosenstein, is empowering seniors, increasing their self-worth, confidence and identity. MMM is embracing everyone who wants to give music a chance. Its theme is, “using the power of music to change brain chemistry and celebrate life!” They do this by making a conscious effort to advance a cultural shift towards serving forgotten seniors, using music to lift the spirits of all.
There are also concerts presented by groups like 5th Dementia and sing-alongs featuring the Beverly Hills Treble Makers, bringing patients and caregivers together to make music and share in the benefits of people helping people. And the brain is listening. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust, repair and reorganize itself. “Music training, for example, primes musicians for listening challenges, and its effect on neuroplasticity transfers to other areas like speech, language, and auditory and verbal memory,” adds Rosenstein.
When Plato said, “Music gives wings to the mind,” he was onto something way back then. So, while a cure is coming, music is ever-present serving as therapy for the mind, brain, and soul, and making an impact beyond what many could have ever imagined.
Janet Zappala is an Emmy award-winning anchor and reporter, and creator of Your Health Matters. Tunes for the Memory is the Coachella Valley Chapter of Music Mends Minds and offers free weekly sessions Fridays 1:30-3:00 pm October-May. For more information visit www.musicmendsminds.org or call (818) 326.0500.