Effects of Music on Memory

 'Alive Inside'

effects of music on Alzheimer's clients

Dr. Oliver Sachs

How Music Works Wonders on our Neurology 


Alison Grace Rapetti, MT-BC

Starling Creative Arts' Founder

"Before becoming a music therapist, back when I was immersed in the music therapy program at the Berklee College of Music, I gained insight into what makes music so meaningful and impactful to us, no matter who we are or where we come from. I learned that researchers of neurology and music are now intricately able to study the effects of music on our neurology. Neurologic imaging shows us that music is ‘globally’ processed throughout the brain, one of the few things on earth that makes both our left and right hemispheres fire simultaneously. There is no one music center; instead, all parts work both separately and together to process music and its various elements. Our frontal lobe analyzes the lyrics and gleans meaning. Our cerebellum feels the rhythm and groove. Our limbic system allows us to harness our emotions that well up from deep within. The neurotransmitter, dopamine, is released in our striatum, filling our bodies with a sense of pleasure (and goosebumps!) when we hear that song we love.  Our amygdala and prefrontal cortex lets us know urgently if we want to stay to hear that band we shlepped out to see on a cold, rainy night or if we are so disappointed with the deafening, muffled sound that we leave immediately, muttering for our money back. Importantly for music therapists, the hippocampus, located in the medial temporal lobe, helps us to remember where we first heard great songs and the memories encoded with it. Music takes us back, awakens the senses and  leaves an indellible imprint.  


What was most mind-blowing for me was to learn that music goes immediately to the healthy parts of our brain, and if there is any structural damage (due to a stroke, injury, or disease) music can actually forge new neurologic pathways through those malfunctioning areas to other healthy parts. It is like being on the train when it breaks down, and hopping on two different buses with completely new routes to arrive at your originally intended destination. Music is a vehicle that helps transport our neurons and find the right pathways. It heals our broken parts and assists us in regaining tasks we may have trouble performing otherwise (even walking and talking).  Steps towards neurologic wellness can be small in incremental measure. The progress takes grit and perseverance and dream outcomes are not assured. Still, music therapy is, in my opinion, the most stealth yet safe vehicle to get you to your intended destination. It isn't magic that allows a patient with Alzheimer's presenting as mostly non-verbal to be exposed to familiar music and then suddenly reclaim the ability to speak and share. Internally, music is reaching parts of our brains that are well, not to mention the deeper parts of our whole beings.

 At Starling Creative Arts, we want to bring you world class creative care, steeped in scientific research, as well as keep you up to date on pertinent information.


  Yours in music,

  Ali Rapetti, MT-BC