Is Music Therapy an Effective Intervention for Dementia? A Meta-Analytic Review of Literature

Author: Koger, Susan M.; Chapin, Kathryn; and Brotons, Melissa

Description: A recent qualitative review of literature in the area of music/music therapy and dementias published since 1985 suggested that music/music therapy is an effective intervention for maintaining and improving active involvement, social, emotional and cognitive skills, and for decreasing behavioral problems of individuals with dementias (Brotons, Koger, & Pickett-Cooper, 1997). The present analysis sought to update and quantify this relationship, and investigate the extent to which methodological variables influenced treatment effectiveness. Twenty-one empirical studies, with a total of 336 subjects suffering from symptoms of dementia, were included in the meta-analysis. Overall, the effect of music/music therapy was found to be highly significant. A homogeneity analysis determined that the effect sizes were not consistent across studies; thus, a series of moderating variable analyses were conducted. We were unable to determine the source of variability between studies by analyzing type of therapeutic intervention (active or passive), music (live or taped), therapist’s training (trained music therapist vs. other professional), dependent variable (behavioral, cognitive, or social), or length of treatment. Although the published literature demonstrates that music/music therapy is an effective method overall for treating symptoms of dementia, systematic variation of treatment protocols is necessary to identify the underlying mechanisms and delineate the most effective techniques.

Subject headings: Music therapy; Dementia; Treatment; Therapy; Effectiveness; Meta-analysis

Publication year: 1999

Journal or book title: Journal of music therapy

Volume: 36

Issue: 1

Pages: 2-15

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Serial number: 3725

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