As a PhD student researching the impact of music on dementia, Anne-Marie Greenaway explains why she became interested in this particular area and how Join Dementia Research helps with her studies.

The beginning of a dementia research journey

Prior to starting her Masters degree in Clinical Language Sciences, Anne-Marie started to notice dementia friendly signs around her local community and it sparked an interest in her; she wondered ‘what makes something dementia friendly?’

As part of her Masters degree, she studied connected speech (spoken language in a continuous sequence) in those with dementia, this involved the analysis of secondary data.  ‘People living with dementia were sharing memories from their youth, middle-aged years and recent events. The richness of their earlier memories made me want to speak to people living with dementia face-to-face and help to keep those memories secure’.

She explains: “Such was my interest that after my Masters degree, that I trained to become a dementia advisor at Andover Mind. We got referrals from GPs and memory clinics of people who’d been diagnosed with dementia and then we would assess their needs. The idea is that it was part of the dementia pathway. So people would get their diagnosis and feel a bit lost, so we would keep in touch with them and offer support. It really helped me to learn more about what it’s like to live with dementia.”

Music and dementia

“It was around that time that I came across the film Alive Inside. It featured an American researcher who was doing a study on the effect of giving MP3 players to people with progressed dementia. The effect that music has on the people in residential care homes was absolutely amazing, I just thought; I want to know more!”

Soon after that point, Anne-Marie started her PhD in biomedical engineering, but managed to combine the element of looking at music in dementia.

She explains: “Obviously I know about the singing for the brain, but I wondered if there was a way this could be used as a more targeted therapy. Anxiety and depression are common in people living with dementia, so I am researching a technology based music mediated intervention for people with dementia who experience anxiety and/or depression.

“In the lab, I play music and to gauge the mood of the person, I use eye-tracking to see what the person looks at on the screen.

We know that music can influence where someone looks, and from movie soundtracks, how intensely you feel the emotion the movie scene is trying to convey. I want to know if we develop this further to have a therapeutic effect and lift the mood of the person – a kind of ‘see good, feel good’ training approach.

Recruiting participants through Join Dementia Research

So far, Anne-Marie has carried out three studies as part of her PhD and 100% of the participants have come through Join Dementia Research.

She explains: “When I started my PhD, obviously I knew I wanted it to work with people with dementia, but I didn’t have any networks or contacts. I was delighted when I came across Join Dementia Research through a Google search.

“The process is fairly straightforward and because I input the eligibility criteria into the study information, I know that I am guaranteed to get the right cohort of people.

“You can even do a feasibility search which allows you to see how many volunteers match your study criteria during your study planning phase. Recruiting the right amount of participants for a study is a crucial part of research.

“Join Dementia Research has enabled me to work with volunteers based throughout the whole of the UK – something which would have been impossible for me to do on my own.

“It’s a really valuable resource because in addition to those with a diagnosis, people of all ages living without dementia are also on the platform – it’s a one-stop-shop!”

If you are a researcher and want to find out more about getting your study listed on Join Dementia Research, visit our Researchers page.