Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)



MANDDOLIN4 develops music-based interventions for people living with dementia.







Music And Neuroscience against Dementia: from Designs to Outcomes through Listening INterventions INclusively INformed for INdividuals

Background: Despite intense interest in music therapy for dementia and growing neuroscientific understanding of how musical brain functions are altered or preserved in major dementias, neuroscience and clinical practice have not been integrated to design music-based interventions for people living with dementia. Here we will mine recent neuroscientific progress to develop ecologically- and personally-relevant musical interventions in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia. In this first study, we will focus on short-term benefits in well-being, social engagement and motivation, as arguably the most immediately relevant impacts of music therapy.

Methods: In well-defined patient cohorts, we will develop and administer short, bespoke listening interventions based on experimental paradigms we have tailored to these diseases, manipulating: i) musical playlist personal resonance, ii) musical motor arousal and iii) musical listening environment. Using tools we have developed we will assess measures of subjective well-being and social reactivity in patients and their caregivers and measures of autonomic and motor arousal as physiological proxies of emotional state.

Outcomes: This project will generate the first pilot data for designing candidate, neuroscientifically-informed music-based interventions to achieve specified psychological and physiological benefits in two major dementias. We will use these data to drive larger interdisciplinary, collaborative grant applications.

Collaboration:  is integral to this project. It integrates expertise in dementia music neuroscience (Warren), development of musical playlists and clinical and physiological metrics of well-being in people with dementia (Crutch), design of physical and sensory environments to optimise real-world function in dementia (Tyler), delivery of clinical music therapy to people with dementia (Bolton) and design of bespoke therapeutic auditory interventions for people living with AD and FTD (Volkmer).

The team: 

  • PI Jason Warren has led the Brain Behaviour Group at UCL Dementia Research Centre since 2005, addressing mechanisms and markers of brain function in the frontotemporal dementias and Alzheimer’s disease. 
  • Seb Crutch is Lead for Cognitive Neuropsychology at UCL Dementia Research Centre and Director of Rare Dementia Support, a national network of support groups, telephone and online resources to empower, guide and inform people living with rare dementia diagnoses and those who care about them. 
  • Nick Tyler is Chadwick Chair of Civil Engineering at UCL and Director of UCL’s Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL) in East London. PEARL has a unique capability to create different multisensory environments, both physical and virtual, and to manipulate their features in specified ways. 
  • Laura Bolton is an NHS-based music therapist with over 10 years’ experience in establishing, designing and delivering effective music-based interventions for people living with dementia.
  • Anna Volkmer is a highly specialised clinical speech and language therapist and postdoctoral Senior Research Fellow based at the UCL Division of Psychology and Language Sciences.
  • Tabitha Tuckett and trio Bentham’s Body Ensemble bring the perspective and expertise of performing musicians who are active in bridging traditional barriers of accessibility for diverse audiences. The Trio's members are Yvonne Cheng (piano), Julia Foellmer (clarinet) and Tabitha Tuckett (’cello). 
  • Two postdoctoral scientists and research assistant funded by aligned grants to Warren’s and Tyler’s labs will supervise the project day to day.

Image credit: The image is open source, with no attribution needed.