Musical Bridges to Memory: A Pilot Dyadic Music Intervention to Improve Social Engagement in Dementia : Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders

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Musical Bridges to Memory

A Pilot Dyadic Music Intervention to Improve Social Engagement in Dementia

Schafer, Rhiana BS*; Karstens, Aimee PhD*,†; Hospelhorn, Emma PhD; Wolfe, Jeffrey MM; Ziemba, Amanda MM; Wise, Peggy BA; Crown, Rickie PhD; Rook, Jenni MA; Bonakdarpour, Borna MD*

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Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders 36(4):p 312-318, October–December 2022. | DOI: 10.1097/WAD.0000000000000525



Music-based psychosocial interventions may provide effective management of behavioral symptoms in persons with dementia (PWDs). However, there has been a paucity of studies that measured their effect on social engagement. This proof-of-concept study evaluates efficacy of the Musical Bridges to Memory (MBM) intervention on PWD’s social engagement, behavioral symptoms, and associated caregiver distress.


Twenty-nine PWDs and caregivers (8 control dyads, 21 intervention) participated in this dyadically designed, prospective, blinded, 12-week controlled interventional study. The intervention consisted of weekly MBM sessions, led by board-certified music therapists and performers, including caregiver training, live performances, and social breakout groups. Outcomes were measured by the Verbal and Nonverbal Interaction Scale for Care Receivers (VNVIS-CR) to code interactions between PWDs and caregivers for verbal and nonverbal sociable and unsociable behaviors. Symptom severity and caregiver distress were measured using Neuropsychiatric Inventory.


Nonverbal sociable interactions significantly increased (P=0.012) in those who completed the MBM program as compared with a decrease observed in the control group. Family/caregiver distress associated with PWDs neuropsychiatric symptoms showed significant improvement in the experimental group as compared with controls (P=0.045).


This study provides proof-of-concept that MBM improves nonverbal sociable content of PWDs interactions and reduces caregivers’ distress.

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