Can Music Delay Dementia?

Sep 2, 2013

At 101, Frank Iacono still plays the violin. The concertmaster for the Providence Civic Orchestra of Senior Citizens in Rhode Island, he particularly enjoys playing polkas and jigs.

"It keeps my mind active, and it gives me a lot of pleasure," Iacono said.

The orchestra's executive director and co-founder, Vito Saritelli, said Iacono is extremely sharp for his age.

"Music has played a good part of his longevity," said his wife, Mary Iacono, 94. "We're blessed that we're both in good health."

As scientists race to figure out how to promote healthy aging of the brain, and prevent dementia, their preliminary advice for senior citizens has become a chorus of voices: "Stay active! Have hobbies! Be socially engaged!"

Playing music, for some people, is a natural answer to all of those recommendations. Frank Iacono, for instance, has been playing violin since he was 13 — just because he loves it.

But does music playing in particular stave off dementia? What about just listening to music? How many years do you need to engage in music before it benefits your brain?

Written By: Elizabeth Landau
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0 comments on “Can Music Delay Dementia?

  • 1
    IDLERACER says:

    I don’t like the way this article bats around the word “music” in such a generic fashion. There is a great argument to be made that listening to Gershwin could possibly delay the onset of dementia, while listening to Barry Manilow could very easily have the opposite effect. “Music” means different things to different cultures. Some hillbillies who live isolated lives deep in the bowels of the Appalachian mountains have brains that are wired to hear anything outside of a I-IV-V chord progression as a mistake. I’m from Los Angeles, and my brain is wired to hear anything that only consists of three chords as a Chinese water torture.

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  • 2
    Christiana Magdalene Moodley says:

    Music and scrabble!!! Oh,there’s hope for me yet.What, with all the religiots,woo salesmen and suchlike horrors out there,I was wondering how long I could keep my tenuous grip on sanity…

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  • Mediaeval muslim doctors opined that one could cure mental illness with music.

    Mind you, they still believed they were driving out demons … but at least it was kinder than tying people up and throwing them into cess-pits like European christians were doing at the time.

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  • 6
    OHooligan says:

    I’ve known two people who decayed via Alzheimer’s in their late 80s. One had a lifelong indifference to music, claimed to be tone deaf. The other loved listening to music. The only difference I noticed was the musically interested one was better able to enjoy her time, listening. The other had nothing to do but stare out the window.

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