Featured Research

The  Science  Behind  the Magic

Silent discos are a great tool to create an immersive musical experience for people with dementia, creating moments of connection and joy like no other. Researchers from the University of British Columbia explored how people with dementia and their caregivers would respond to this kind of intervention in a hospital setting. This 2021 study found that silent discos were perceived as useful, easy to use, and led to positive attitudes in patients and caregivers alike. Using silent disco headphones allowed people to focus on the music while preventing overstimulation from outside noise. Overall, there was an improvement in mood and affect for people with dementia, while caretakers found it easier to build moments of connection (Hung et al., 2021).

The literature suggests that there are three ways to supplement the musical experience to maximize these moments of connection: (1) physical touch, (2) rhythmic engagement, and (3) community engagement. Silent discos are the perfect medium to uniquely cater to all three pillars of engagement to enhance the power music has with dementia as seen below. While coping with the disease can be heartbreaking for people with dementia, caretakers, and families alike, we hope to improve the quality of life and create moments of joy day by day.

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Rhythmic Engagement

Rhythm is one of the preserved skills throughout dementia. Widespread research has shown that being engaged in rhythm is important for people with dementia, as perceiving, listening, and producing rhythm require separate areas of the brain. Thus, engaging with the rhythm of a familiar song can lead to widespread activation of neurons across the brain. Engaging with rhythm can also create an organizing effect on movements, emotions, and thoughts which is crucial to coping with the cognitive changes of dementia (Särkämö et al., 2014; Chen & Pei, 2018; Kontos et al., 2021). By mirroring the rhythm of songs using handheld percussive instruments such as maracas, our silent disco programs create an interactive experience with music.

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Physical Touch

As we age, vital tools for communication such as seeing and hearing slowly decline. Fortunately, touch has been shown to be an effective way of communicating with older adults who are losing functionality in those other communicative systems. Previous research has shown that simple touch can lead to a decrease in agitation, an increase in stimulation of sensory systems, and an increase in one’s ability to perceive their environment and the people around them (Woods, Craven, & Whitney, 2005; Belgrave, 2009; Götell & Ekman, 2000). As people with dementia often have serious difficulty in communication due to sensory and cognitive decline, we believe that touch can play an important role in amplifying the awakening sensory experience of music.

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Rhythm and Attention Control

Dancing is a common expression of rhythm when listening to music. In this setting, dancing presents an activity that combines movement with rhythmic engagement. Combining motor and auditory activity when engaging in music increases neural plasticity as it strengthens the individual’s attention network. Researchers from Southwestern Oklahoma University and the University of Kansas found that the combination of movement (walking) with rhythmic engagement (either small percussion instrument or singing) led to an improvement in attention function for people with dementia, which is a particular area of difficulty. Our silent discos combine familiar music with maracas to maximize these neuronal connection. Full Study.

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Benefits of Musical Engagement

Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland looked at the long-term effects of daily musical exposure (listening and singing) to see how these effects might compare to short-term findings. They found that regular musical listening can be beneficial in multiple areas of cognitive functioning, general mood, and episodic memory (memory of past personal experiences) of the people with dementia. They also found that singing enhanced their short-term and working memory in addition to the emotional health of their family members. Our silent discos make meaningful engagement with music easier, encouraging patients to sing along to familiar music. Full Study.

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