The effect of music therapy on cognitive functions in patients with dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis


Aging & Mental Health




OBJECTIVES: The aim of the present study was to meta-analyze the effect of music therapy (MT) on cognitive functions in patients with dementia. METHOD: A systematic literature search was performed in Medline, PsycINFO, Embase, CINAHL and RILM up to 8 September 2016. We included all randomized controlled trials that compared MT with standard care, or other non-musical types of intervention, evaluating cognitive outcomes in patients with dementia. Outcomes included global cognition, complex attention, executive function, learning and memory, language, and perceptual-motor skills. RESULTS: From 1089 potentially relevant records, 110 studies were assessed for eligibility, and 7 met the inclusion criteria, of which 6 contained appropriate data for meta-analysis (330 participants, mean age range 78.8-86.3). Overall, random-effects meta-analyses suggested no significant effects of MT on all outcomes. Subgroup analysis found evidence of a beneficial effect of active MT on global cognition (SMD = 0.29, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.57, p = 0.04). CONCLUSION: Despite the limited evidence of the present review, it is important to continue supporting MT as a complementary treatment for older adults with dementia. RCTs with larger sample sizes are needed to better elucidate the impact of MT on cognitive functions.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Alzheimer's and Related Dementias; Elderly; Live Music Listening; Music Listening; Music Therapy; Nursing Home; Neurodegenerative Disorders; Recorded Music Listening; Recreative Music Methods; Singing a Song

Indexed Terms

Dementia; Outcome Assessment, Health Care; Dementia; cognitive functioning; meta-analysis

Study Type

Meta-Analysis; Quantitative Methods

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Document Type