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Researchers awarded funding to tackle dementia using music technology

UCA researchers have secured funding to unearth new ways that music and connected technologies can support people living with dementia and significantly reduce their anxiety, disorientation and distress.

The study – known as Memory Tracks – will be led by Mark Brill, a senior lecturer in Creative Advertising at UCA, and includes product specialists, technologists and music experts among its team of researchers. It will work by associating personal reminiscence music with specific daily tasks, connected through an app and sensor environment. The aim is to improve memory and reduce some of the negative effects associated with dementia. 

“Our aim is to support people living with dementia by exploring ways that reminiscence music and connected technologies can help them to remain more independent in the early onset of the condition and to feel more connected to their environment in the later stages,” explains Mark, who specialises in digital and emerging platforms.

“The expected impact is that patients will experience lower anxiety, depression and agitation and that the care process will be made easier as music serves to make a constant connection between the patient and their family, assisting recognition and shared experiences.”

The project, which has received funding from GuildHE, will involve academics from UCA and Glyndwr University, in collaboration with the tech start-up Memory Tracks and the Pendine Park Care Home in Wrexham and Caernarfon.

“Previous research has identified music as a powerful and therapeutic tool but despite this, it is still significantly underused,” adds Mark. “Dementia results in a steady deterioration of brain function causing a wide range of daily issues. We hope to demonstrate that the use of reminiscence music can significantly decrease many of these behaviours, and improve the lives of those living with dementia and their carers.

“Our research will focus on testing a care platform in care homes by providing a personalised selection of music tailored to an individual’s routine, their family, carers and needs. The core element of this is a tablet or smartphone app that connects daily events to the resident’s choice of reminiscence music. In the initial development, these triggers are activated by their carer or by the user. Further development of Memory Tracks will utilise behavioural or physical triggers to create a contextual, more immersive user experience.”

The platform will use musical triggers to connect reminiscence songs via sensors, behaviours or routines to support people living with dementia through the power of song-task association.

To find out more about the project, visit memorytracks.co.uk.