The beneficial aspects of listening to music such as calming anxiety, reducing stress and inducing a relaxing effect, are being tested in a new study for people living with dementia.

The context

As well as experiencing cognitive decline, people with dementia often also suffer from ‘neuropsychiatric symptoms’ such as depression, irritability, anxiety and hallucinations.

In fact, one of the reasons why people are sometimes admitted to care homes perhaps earlier than they might be, is because they are unable to manage these symptoms.

Music listening has been found to be effective in helping with this, but also has the added benefit of stimulating cognitive function.

Researchers at the University of Plymouth and Anglia Ruskin University are leading a project which aims to use music to help maintain quality of life for people living with dementia and support independent living at home for longer.

Aim of the study

The study which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will work with people with dementia and their carers in their home to:

  • co-design a live radio stream of the listener’s choice
  • provide diary reminders for appointments, medication etc
  • play calming music when a bio bracelet that they will wear picks up heart rate variability (which indicates agitation)

What does it involve?

There are three elements to the study.

  • an interview with the person living with dementia capturing their emotional reaction to music and their preferences for calming music.
  • the wearing of a bio bracelet to accurately detect periods of agitation. It will respond to heart rate, temperature and movement whilst the participant listens to the music and whilst doing other activities in the home.
  • the installation of RadioMe into the participant’s homes for testing with each participant wearing a bio-bracelet for an extended period. Participants will be shown how to use the system and be interviewed afterwards to ask what they thought of it.

At the different stages of the study, participants will be asked to complete an agitation chart to provide researchers with key information about whether the chosen music is providing the desired reaction.

Why take part?

Principal Investigator, Professor Sube Banerjee, Executive Dean, University of Plymouth says:

“Helping people living with dementia to remain in their own homes as long as possible is a key aim of the study.

“We can use technology to provide vital reminders such as taking medication, attending important appointments and to use music to reduce agitation and therefore enable people to live well with dementia so please consider signing up if you can.”

Who can take part?

The study is open to people living in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Bedfordshire. Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex and Norfolk. Participants must have a diagnosis of any dementia, be living at home and also have a carer who can be involved in the study.

All RadioMe research will be conducted in accordance with current government guidelines to reduce the spread of Covid-19, with appropriate infection control measures closely observed at all times.

There is a payment for involvement provided to all participants and travel costs will also be reimbursed.

This study is open until 1 January 2024.

To find out if you are eligible to join this study, as well as other dementia studies, sign in to your Join Dementia Research account or if you are not already registered, sign up today.