UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Effects of Music Therapy on Patients with Dementia—A Systematic Review Lam, Hei Long; Li, Wai Tak Victor; Laher, Ismail; Wong, Roger Y.


Dementia is an increasingly common syndrome and while pharmacotherapy is available, its potential benefit is limited, especially in non-cognitive outcomes. Non-pharmacotherapy such as music therapy is potentially associated with improved outcomes. We assessed the effects of music therapy on patients with dementia to evaluate its potential benefits on dementia. Two independent reviewers searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, CENTRAL, and ClinicalTrials.gov databases for clinical trials, using the keywords “music therapy” and “dementia”. Study outcomes included cognitive function, behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), and quality of life. A total of 82 studies were included, of which 43 were interventional clinical trials, and 39 were systematic reviews or meta-analyses. Significant improvements in verbal fluency occurred after music therapy, with significant reductions in anxiety, depression, and apathy. There were no significant improvements in cognition or daily functioning, and the results on quality of life and agitation were ambiguous. Limitations of studies included low patient numbers, lack of standardized music therapy, and high heterogeneity in outcomes. More large-scale clinical trials would allow for clearer conclusions on the benefits of music therapy in patients with dementia.

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