Institute for Therapy through the Arts and Northwestern University evaluate the impact of the Musical Bridges to Memory program
ITA has been approved for a three-year $90,000 Research Grant in the Arts award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to investigate the impact of music on people with dementia and their families.
“This award coincides with the 10th anniversary of the NEA Research grants program,” said Director of Research & Analysis Sunil Iyengar. “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support this project from Institute for Therapy through the Arts among others that, in a very challenging year, will investigate the value and impact of the arts.”
ITA will use the awarded funds to implement Musical Bridges to Memory (MBM) which aims to improve relationships between people with dementia, their families, and the greater community who serve them through engaging live musical interactions, training, and research in music-based approaches.
“Our music therapists provide weekly training and support to family members and caregivers of people with dementia, guiding them in the use of music to encourage communication and social interaction. As the disease progresses, the ability to engage with music is retained, and we teach families to use music as a bridge so that they can stay connected to their loved one,” says, Jeffrey Wolfe, ITA’s Director of Community Programs and Administrator for MBM.
“We combine this training with live interactive performances by incredibly skilled professional musicians where families have the opportunity to practice the skills they learn with continued support from our therapists,” Wolfe continues.
ITA has been researching MBM in partnership with Northwestern University Feinberg School of medicine. Dr. Borna Bonakdarpour served as the primary investigator of the project. The pilot research has demonstrated promising results to date.
“We have seen very positive outcomes for the individuals who participated in the weekly program over the course of three months. Compared to those who did not participate in MBM, the individuals with dementia who attended weekly showed an increase in their positive social behaviors, laughing, smiling, and interacting with their partners. We also found that the family members who participated in the program reported being less distressed during the time they spent with their loved one.” says Dr. Bonakdarpour, assistant professor of Neurology at Northwestern University Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease, and department of neurology.
The NEA grant will fund ITA’s research for the next three years and outcomes will be published as data is collected, culminating in a complete research summary at the end of the funding period.
“We are extremely honored to be recognized by the NEA and to have the opportunity to continue to positively impact the quality of life of those with dementia and their families. We appreciate the National Institute of Health and the NEA recognizing the need to make music and the arts an integral part of the comprehensive care for treating dementia,” says Wolfe.
To learn more about MBM, visit www.musicalbridgestomemory.org or contact Jeffrey Wolfe, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on projects included in the Arts Endowment grant announcement, visit arts.gov/news.