The effects of personally preferred music on mood and behaviour in individuals with dementia: An exploratory pilot study




preferred music, dementia, assisted living community, person-centred approach, music-based intervention


Music has been shown to benefit individuals with dementia. There are, however, limited studies examining how assisted living staff members use preferred music for dementia patients. This controlled pilot study aimed to determine: 1) whether preferred music is effective in improving mood and behaviour and 2) whether a person-centred approach to music-based interventions is feasible for individuals with dementia. The 20 participants (mean age (SD) = 81 (8)) listened to a preferred song or control song in random order over 6 weeks with a five-day wash out period between the exposures. Neurobehavioral Rating Scale (NRS) and Observed Emotion Rating Scale (OERS) were used to measure participants’ emotions and behaviour changes. Blood pressure and heart rate were collected to understand physiological responses to music. NRS was used to measure the behavioural changes in response to a listening intervention comprised of both preferred music and control music over the course of 14 sessions administered over six weeks. We observed no changes in NRS symptoms post-intervention. OERS scores and vital signs did not differ significantly between the preferred music and the control song despite trends. Participants/staff/family expressed the importance of preferred songs to evoke specific memories and increase well-being. Thematic analysis using sentiment components indicated a predominance of positive sentiment in the meaningful music category and a minor occurrence of negative sentiment in the control music.

Author Biographies

Stephanie Cairo, Holleran Consulting, USA

Stephanie Cairo, MA, is a Project Manager/Research Analyst for Holleran Consulting – the nation’s leading provider of actionable engagement and satisfaction surveys for those who serve older adults. []

Kyurim Kang, Johns Hopkins Center for Music & Medicine, USA

Kyurim Kang, PhD, MT-BC, is a postdoctoral research fellow and a neurologic music therapist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine: []

Patricia Izbicki, Octave, USA

Patricia Izbicki, PhD, is a Medical Science Liaison at Octave and a former fellow at the Johns Hopkins Arts + Minds Lab. []

Molly Isinghood, University of Southern California, USA

Molly Isinghood, MA in Gerontology, University of Southern California, was a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) specialising in working with older adults with dementia, currently working as an registered nurse. []

Tabassum Majid, University of Maryland, USA

Tabassum Majid, PhD, is an Adjunct Faculty Member at UMBC's Erickson School of Aging Services. []

Alexander Pantelyat, Johns Hopkins Center for Music & Medicine, USA

Alexander Pantelyat, MD, is Associate Professor of Neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine. []