Music-based Interventions for People Living With Dementia, Targeting Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms: a Scoping Review


International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry




INTRODUCTION: Dementia care is a major public health issue worldwide. The management of behavioral and psychological symptoms (BPSD) is one of the hardest challenges in this context. Non-pharmacological strategies, like music-based interventions (Mbi), seem promising options, being considered low-risk, widely available and inclusive. This scoping review aimed at mapping all Mbi used in dementia care, targeting BPSD, and debriefing its components, structure and rationale. Music therapy and other therapeutic music activities were included. METHODS: The Arksey and O'Malley framework, Cochrane recommendations and PRISMA checklist were followed. Embase, PubMed, PsycINFO, ASSIA and Humanities Index were searched from first records until the 31(st) of March 2020. Snowballing process and screening of relevant journals were also undertaken. A panel of experts critically guided the evidence synthesis. RESULTS: Overall, 103 studies (34 RCT; 12 NRT; 40 Before/After studies and 17 Case Studies) met inclusion criteria. Basic elements of the Mbi, the rationale supporting its development and hypothesis tested were mostly underreported, thus hampering cross-study comparisons and generalizations. Despite this, available evidence indicates that: it is feasible to deliver Mbi to PwD at very different stages and in different settings - from community to the acute setting - even for non-music therapists; positive or neutral effects in BPSD are often reported but not without exception; individualization seems a critical factor mediating Mbi effects. CONCLUSIONS: Detailed intervention and research reporting are essential to interpretation, replication and translation into practice. Ten years after the publication of specific reporting guidelines, this goal is not yet fully achieved in music in dementia care.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Alzheimer's and Related Dementias; Behavioral State; Depression; Mental Health; Music Therapy; Neurodegenerative Disorders; Psychological Outcomes

Indexed Terms

Dementia; Depression; behavioral symptoms; dementia; non-pharmacological therapy; scoping review

Study Type

Systematic Review; Quantitative Methods

PubMed ID


Document Type