University of South Florida

College of Behavioral and Community Sciences


Group-based music intervention effective in improving behavior of adults with dementia

Study participants watch music videos

Music is powerful and it can have important therapeutic benefits for people with dementia. Research has shown that listening to or singing songs can reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues commonly found among those with the disease. However, most music intervention studies have focused on interventions that occur on an individual basis.

In a new study from the School of Aging Studies, researchers found that group-based intervention with pre-recorded music benefited people with dementia in ways similar to those found with individual-based intervention. These group-based interventions are particularly well suited for senior living communities, including assisted living communities because they require fewer resources than individual sessions and are likely to be cost-effective, increasing the likelihood of wider adoption. 

Staff in the assisted living community and adult day care facility where this research occurred, as well as residents’ family members, reported improvements quality of life for those who participated in the group-based music intervention. The majority of participants (81%) completed all 12 sessions delivered over 4 weeks and 63% experienced a reduction in agitation.

“This study is an important step toward providing non-pharmacological interventions to be used as a first-line treatment for behavioral concerns among people with dementia,” said Hongdao Meng, MD, MPH, PhD, associate professor in the School of Aging Studies and principal investigator of the study. “With additional research, it has the potential to be incorporated into the daily practice of memory care communities to increase person-centered, meaningful activities and improve the quality of care.” 

In addition to behavioral impact, the study also examined the feasibility and acceptability of group music intervention. Researchers found that, due to variations in participants’ cognitive ability and function, additional accommodations were necessary to facilitate attendance. The project revealed that having a dedicated space within the memory care units, appropriate group size, and choice of music were crucial to the intervention’s success.  

The research team is working on fine-tuning this program and testing for its efficacy in more assisted living communities, which will help make a business case for wider adoption. The study was funded by a grant from the Ed and Ethel Moore Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program, administered by the State of Florida Department of Health.

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About College of Behavioral & Community Sciences News

The Mission of the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences (CBCS) is to advance knowledge through interdisciplinary teaching, research, and service that improves the capacity of individuals, families, and diverse communities to promote productive, satisfying, healthy, and safe lives across the lifespan. CBCS envisions the college as a globally recognized leader that creates innovative solutions to complex conditions that affect the behavior and well-being of individuals, families, and diverse communities.