Senior listening to music

Baycrest launches study combining music and brain stimulation to improve memory

Dr. Claude Alain, Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute assistant director and senior scientist

Dr. Claude Alain, Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute assistant director and senior scientist

Baycrest will embark on the first study combining music therapy with brain stimulation to improve memory among patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).

This study could pave the way to developing an affordable and easy-to-use treatment for MCI patients, who face a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Claude Alain, assistant director and senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI), will work with MCI patients to study the benefits of listening to music they enjoyed in the past, paired with Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) – a non-invasive and painless form of brain stimulation that transmits a very low-intensity current through the skull.

Research has demonstrated that listening to music improves the mood and well-being of older adults with dementia, and may also stimulate social interaction by “bringing back” past memories for these patients.

“Somehow music activates memories in dementia patients, which in turn leads to more social engagement and interaction with caregivers,” says Dr. Alain, who is also a psychology professor at the University of Toronto. “Brain stimulation has also been shown to temporarily improve a person’s memory and attention, but the reason it helps is still unclear.

“By combining personalized music choices with tDCS, we aim to strengthen the unique brain pathway music uses to activate memories and improve the effectiveness of this musical intervention among patients who are starting to experience memory issues.”

There are few treatments available to improve or slow down memory decline among MCI patients.

Currently, the study is recruiting older adults with mild cognitive impairment. Anyone interested in participating can visit www.baycrest.org/participate/participate-in-research/ or leave a message at: 416-785-2500 ext. 2080.

This research is supported by the Lorraine Johnston Foundation, which aided in the study’s development and contributed funds towards hiring staff and conducting testing in older adults with MCI.

With additional funding, researchers could pursue studying the brain mechanisms behind brain stimulation. Depending on the study’s results, there is the potential to develop a treatment program for patients with more severe types of dementia. 

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About Baycrest Health Sciences
Baycrest Health Sciences is a global leader in geriatric residential living, healthcare, research, innovation and education, with a special focus on brain health and aging. Fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, Baycrest provides excellent care for older adults combined with an extensive clinical training program for the next generation of healthcare professionals and one of the world’s top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience, the Rotman Research Institute. Baycrest is home to the federally and provincially-funded Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation, a solution accelerator focused on driving innovation in the aging and brain health sector, and is the developer of Cogniciti – a free online memory assessment for Canadians 40+ who are concerned about their memory.  Founded in 1918 as the Jewish Home for Aged, Baycrest continues to embrace the long-standing tradition of all great Jewish healthcare institutions to improve the well-being of people in their local communities and around the globe. For more information please visit: www.baycrest.org

About Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute
The Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences is a premier international centre for the study of human brain function. Through generous support from private donors and funding agencies, the institute is helping to illuminate the causes of cognitive decline in seniors, identify promising approaches to treatment, and lifestyle practices that will protect brain health longer in the lifespan.

For media inquiries:
Jonathan MacIndoe
Baycrest Health Sciences
416-785-2500 ext. 6579
jmacindoe@baycrest.org