Date of Award


Degree Type

Selective Evidence-Based Medicine Review

Degree Name

Master of Science in Health Sciences - Physician Assistant


Physician Assistant Studies

Department Chair

John Cavenagh, PhD, PA-C


OBJECTIVE: The objective of this selective EBM review is to determine whether or not music therapy is effective in improving the quality of life in dementia patients.

STUDY DESIGN: Review of three English language primary studies published between 1996 and present.

DATA SOURCES: Randomized, controlled clinical trials (RCTs) analyzing music therapy and dementia were found using PubMed and OVID.

OUTCOMES MEASURED: The main outcome measured was quality of life, which included depression, anxiety and cognitive change.

RESULTS: Music therapy resulted in several beneficial effects for dementia patients including improvements in self-esteem, depressive symptoms, anxiety, depression, and cognitive change.
Participants who attended ≥50% of live music therapy sessions in the Cooke et al study experienced improvement in self-esteem over time. Fewer depressive symptoms were reported in dementia patients, especially if they had attended music sessions. In the Guétin et al study, both anxiety and depression were significantly reduced in participants completing between four and sixteen weeks of receptive music therapy (p<0.01). These effects persisted for 8 weeks after cessation of intervention. When group music therapy was employed in the Bruer et al study, cognitive improvements were found in dementia-diagnosed subjects immediately following therapy (+2.00 points) and one day post intervention (+3.69 points) as evident by increased scores on the Mini Mental State Exam. One week post-intervention, no significant cognitive improvements remained.

The results of these three clinical trials show that the use of music therapy can be effective in improving quality of life in some dementia patients. The implementation of music therapy into the lives of dementia patients may result in decreased levels of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, and increased levels of cognition up to one day after therapy. Although the data on the persisting effects of music therapy is variable, there is potential for music therapy to have effects on anxiety and depression for up to eight weeks following intervention.