"Well, I guess Cab Calloway was my number one."
April 10, 2012 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Alive Inside is an upcoming documentary exploring how listening to music can briefly return memories to patients who previously seemed completely lost to Alzheimer's. An excerpt can be seen here.
posted by gilrain (22 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
c.f. Oliver Sacks on music therapy for Parkinson's (Incidentally, Sacks is an an honorary medical advisor to the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, which collaborated with the social worker who started up the Well-Tuned program in this documentary.)
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:39 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

With An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, his second full-length foray as The Caretaker, Kirby tackles amnesia, building on his previous work with the subject in 2005's Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia. This time around, Kirby contemplates the ability of Alzheimer’s patients to recollect passages of music from their past and connect them to specific people and places.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:41 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you.
posted by Infinity_8 at 2:42 PM on April 10, 2012

I saw this earlier today; it's absolutely beautiful. Don't skip it.
posted by deanklear at 2:42 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

gilrain - thanks for this.
Blazecock - that's lovely.
posted by Jofus at 2:47 PM on April 10, 2012

Is this like The Music Never Stopped? That movie made me sob like a baby....
posted by Big_B at 2:55 PM on April 10, 2012

Also if drum and bass is still a genre in 60 years please bring me some. kthx.
posted by Big_B at 2:57 PM on April 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've been listening to live Radiohead on YouTube quite a bit for the past couple of days, and there's one song in particular (Supercollider) that has captured my interest. I find that as I'm listening to it, the song for some reason take me back 10 years or so to 2001, when I first really discovered Radiohead.

So, as I'm listening to the song, I see flashes of my life from 10 years ago - driving fast in a nice car on an expressway in the countryside, deep blue sky, brilliant green hills, all sorts of other stuff. It was also a particularly good time in my life. Nice car, lots of work, lots of money, lots of free time, few responsibilities, I was in good physical condition... The music takes me back.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:00 PM on April 10, 2012

Music & Memory is the actual organization that's behind the iPod project.
posted by tiny plastic sockpuppet at 3:07 PM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

The music takes me back.

It's a kind of time travel, isn't it. I wonder how this effect will change (if it does) with the advent of so much music, all kinds, available....everywhere. When I went to France for an exchange program in college in the 80s, I couldn't take much music with me, because tapes take up room. There are two albums in particular from those months (Peter Gabriel, So; Kate Bush, Hounds of Love) that I listened to incessantly, and hearing them now immediately transports me back to Toulouse.

This is wonderful. Thanks.
posted by rtha at 3:08 PM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd be interested what kind of work might have been done on smell-based techniques as well.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:17 PM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

My grandfather had Alzheimer's. I never got to see it, but towards the end of his life you could hand him his harmonica and he would just light up... and play it like the younger man he had once been. Music is deep and powerful stuff.
posted by usonian at 3:31 PM on April 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

We had a little room between the diagnosis and the onset of Alzheimer's with my boss' dad, and we made him some video tapes of him explaining what he liked and didn't like about his life, and we played them back over and over for him in the last three years of his life. He was 86, but quite physically active and a total handful until we started one of his tapes. He would focus intently on himself explaining why he liked to dance, and why the music made him so happy. There were large interludes of music. Some made him mellow, some made him jump on the bed like a three-year-old.

"Singing in the Rain" would always make him do the entire Gene Kelly routine around the room, even when he appeared quite infirm to someone who didn't know him. This is totally anecdotal. I have no proof.

But I know joy when I see it.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:35 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh my god. This is just... I can't believe the change. This just warms my heart.

Thank you so much for this.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 7:43 PM on April 10, 2012

I worked in an old people's home for a while, and it was bleak until the music went on, at which point the room would light up with old ladies who wouldn't really move or speak otherwise singing along and clapping their hands - and, like the chap in the linked clip, they would happily chat and reminisce for maybe ten minutes after the music stopped, before slipping back into depressed dementia (or just get exhausted from the effort). You'd see the same thing if one of the ladies spontaneously burst into song - those in hearing range would join in (not always with the same song!) or tap their feet.

It was an amazing thing to witness, but also a bit disturbing - it was like flicking a switch, and I used to wonder whether the reactions were really joyous responses to music or more of a Pavlovian thing. (Similarly the residents would be at their most chatty when a hairdresser visited the home, and no one was sure if they enjoyed the one-on-one attention or if it was more of an ingrained, 'I'm at the hairdressers, time for gossip!' response.)
posted by jack_mo at 3:46 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've previously recounted what happened when I got my then-86-year-old mother to sing. But I can confirm that just listening to music opens all kinds of cognitive windows.

My father had a rough time as care-giver to my mother; on top of the increasing dementia she was physically disabled, hearing impared, and not inclined to speak up. A distressing percentage of conversations consisted of "Do you want/need X?", "Yes", "No", "HUH?" (both sides) and repeats (ditto).

But when they'd listen together to Christmas carols on the cable music channels, or watch the holiday / fund-drive music specials on PBS back-to-back, the two of them would spontaneously start reminiscing about people they used to know and events during the previous eight decades. After a while, the music itself wasn't the focus anymore, just the catalyst for connecting, and they'd have a real conversation. It was as if a fog was temporarily dispelled.

It's the music, by the way, not the teevy. Sitcoms had the opposite effect, talking head programs had no effect at all.

If someone in your life has dementia, play them some music and see what connections it conjures up. All those memories are just waiting for something in the here-and-now to connect with so they can come to the surface.

I can also tell you that hearing twenty times a day the story about how Uncle Joe used to play the Hawaiian guitar or that your Aunt Bettie once appeared on Arthur Godfrey is a much more pleasant way to pass the time with a loved one than an endless series of yes or no questions and monosyllabic responses.

I'll leave you with The Zimmers (previously), featuring 90-year old lead singer Alf Carretta performing The Who's "My Generation".
posted by Herodios at 8:43 AM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah when I've got Alzheimers do this with really dark techno.
posted by azarbayejani at 10:18 AM on April 11, 2012

I've been meaning watch this since you posted and I finally got around to it just now. How beautiful.
posted by chatongriffes at 7:21 PM on April 11, 2012

I expected to see more people here complaining about wasting taxpayer dollars on ipods for old people.
posted by crunchland at 1:26 PM on April 12, 2012

I expected to see more people here complaining about wasting taxpayer dollars on ipods for old people.

If I had such money I would personally buy a music player for every old person in every nursing home in my county.

In other news, I recently saw an older movie with.. Robin Williams I think it was, that was similar to this.

Found it! Awakenings.
posted by Malice at 1:31 PM on April 12, 2012

Beautiful! So lovely to see that there are still people inside there after all.

Although if this was me in the future I'd be making a fool of myself attempting to 'sing' along to Aphex Twin and the like...
posted by Lucien Dark at 3:42 PM on April 12, 2012

Malice: "Found it! Awakenings."

Which is based on the work of Oliver Sacks, who features in the linked documentary!
posted by jack_mo at 3:48 PM on April 13, 2012

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