Singing and music making : physiological responses across early to later stages of dementia

Walker, Nina, Crutch, Sebastian J., West, Julian, Jones, Fergal W., Brotherhood, Emilie, Harding, Emma and Camic, Paul M. (2022) Singing and music making : physiological responses across early to later stages of dementia. Wellcome Open Research, 6 (150). ISSN 2398-502X


Background: Music based interventions have been found to improve wellbeing for people with dementia. More recently there has been interest in physiological measures to provide additional information about how music and singing impact this population. Methods: This multiple-case study design explored physiological responses (heart rate-HR, electrodermal activity-EDA, movement, and skin temperature-ST) of nine people with mild-to-moderate using simulation modelling analysis. Results: In study 1, the singing group showed an increase in EDA (p <0.01 for 8/9 participants) and HR (p < 0.01 for 5/9 participants) as the session began. HR (p < 0.0001 for 5/9 participants) and ST (p < 0.0001 for 6/9 participants) increased during faster tempos. EDA (p < 0.01 all), movement (p < 0.01 for 8/9 participants) and engagement were higher during singing compared to a baseline control. In study 2 EDA (p < 0.0001 for 14/18 data points [3 music conditions across 6 participants]) and ST (p < 0.001 for 10/18 data points) increased and in contrast to the responses during singing, HR decreased as the sessions began (p < 0.002 for 9/18 data points). EDA was higher during slower music (p < 0.0001 for 13/18 data points), however this was less consistent in more interactive sessions than the control. There were no consistent changes in HR and movement responses during different music genre. Conclusions: Physiological measures provide valuable information about the experiences of people with dementia participating in musical activities, particularly for those with verbal communication difficulties. Future research should consider using physiological measures. video-analysis and observational measures to explore further how engagement in specific activities, wellbeing and physiology interact.

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