How music helps us

Ms. Caudill and I then went to a conference room to discuss music therapy with my husband, Don, and our friend Alexandra, who has engaged in music ministry. Music must be an especially effective form of therapy, Don supposed, because it directly expresses and creates emotions. Alexandra agreed. Singing in a choir for and with people impaired by dementia, she has witnessed elderly men and women who could not remember their own names recalling verbatim the words of beloved hymns.

“Music lights up neurons between the right and left hemispheres of the brain,” Ms. Caudill said. “It can also aid in neuroplasticity, helping the brain form new connections.” A stress reliever, music is used to recover speech, improve walking and assist in the retrieval of memories. Popular and classical melodies can be infinitely modified to meet various backgrounds and tastes.

[Read more about the use of music for mental health.]

Sometimes depressed patients are encouraged to compose new lyrics to a favorite song that can then convey their reactions to their condition. Ms. Caudill recorded a lymphoma patient singing her version of Shawn Mendes’s “In My Blood” and upon discharge gave her an MP3 of her new “anthem”: “Sometimes I feel I should give up, but I can’t. It isn’t in my blood.”

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