My interest in music and memory began during my music therapy internship at a small nursing home in Brooklyn in the fall of 1978. It was there that I witnessed firsthand the power of music to reach seemingly lost function in those with end stages of dementia. Individuals who I was told were completely unaware of their environments and no longer recognized loved ones showed dramatic responses to familiar music. Lost attention became engaged attention, and soon their responses started to carry over beyond the music therapy sessions. In 1980, I became the full-time music therapist at the facility in the Bronx where Oliver Sacks’“Awakenings” took place. Dr. Sacks had observed how music, especially rhythm, could reanimate those with a Parkinson’s – like movement disorder.
Together, Oliver and I searched for answers. Was music accessing deep rooted emotions, exciting lost memories, jump-starting parts of the brain into action? It wasn’t until the mid ‘90s that we found scientists who...READ MORE