Effects of Music Participation for Mild Cognitive Impairment and Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta‐analysis


Journal of the American Geriatrics Society




Objectives: To examine randomized controlled trials with active music‐making interventions, in which older adults with probable mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia physically participate in music, and their effects on cognitive functioning, emotional well‐being, and social engagement. Participating in music‐making is engaging and has shown diverse benefits. Additionally, this review categorized the music activities of each intervention. Design: Systematic review and meta‐analysis. Setting: Long‐term care facilities, day centers, specialty outpatient units, and community. Methods: Published randomized controlled trials of active music‐making interventions to support older adults with probable MCI or dementia were identified (to March 15, 2021) using searches on Medline (Ovid), APA PsycInfo (Ovid), CINAHL (Ebsco), and Embase (Elsevier). The outcomes were cognitive functioning, emotional well‐being, and social engagement, including self‐ and clinician‐reported measures such as the Mini‐Mental State Examination, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, and the Beck Depression Inventory. Studies were critically appraised and studies with similar methodology were meta‐analyzed. Participants: Older adults with probable MCI and mild or moderate dementia. Results: A total of 21 studies with 1472 participants were analyzed for potential effect sizes and intervention activities. Of the 21 studies, nine studies recruiting a total of 495 participants were used to produce a random‐effects meta‐analytic model for cognitive functioning. Music showed a small, positive effect on cognitive functioning; the combined standard mean difference for the experimental and control group was 0.30 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.10, 0.51). There was low study heterogeneity, with an I² of 24% (p = 0.004). Individual studies for emotional well‐being in terms of quality of life and mood showed positive effect sizes, d = 1.08 and d = 1.74, respectively. [Corrections added on July 8, 2021, after first online publication: The preceding sentences were revised from: '… control group was 0.31 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.10,0.52). There was low study heterogeneity, with an I2 of 25% (p = 0.004).'] Conclusion: This review shows that music‐making has a small but statistically significant effect on cognitive functioning for older adults with probable MCI or dementia. Future music interventions can benefit from rigorous intervention protocols that isolate specific activities. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Music and Health Institute Terms

Adult Day Care; Alzheimer's and Related Dementias; Cognitive Abilities; Elderly; Emotional Functioning; Engagement Level; Long-Term Care Facility; Medical Office; Mental Health; Mood; Neurodegenerative Disorders; Quality of Life; Recreative Music Methods; Self-Report Measures; Wellness and Well-Being

Indexed Terms

Alzheimer's; cognition; dementia; mood; Cognitive Ability; Intervention; Mild Cognitive Impairment; Emotional States; Participation; Well Being; Older Adulthood

Study Type

Meta-Analysis; Systematic Review; Quantitative Methods

Document Type