While the cause of AD is known to be a dysfunction of β-amyloid peptides in the brain (Srivareerat, 2009), there is no diagnosis for AD other than cognitive testing (Mahoney, 2005). Remarkably, autopsies of AD patients for a study by Wilson show that approximately half didn't show a peptide dysfunction, and, according to his study, loneliness was instead implicated in the AD-like cognitive loss (Wilson, 2006).
Wilson shows that loneliness may cause neural decline that leads to AD-like dementia (Wilson, 2006), and he also shows in a later study that cognitive activity can help prevent AD-like decline (Wilson, 2007). Together, his studies suggest care and preventive strategies that family members can implement through social support.
AD patients respond well to music, especially when it elicits positive memories (Howe, 2008). Music is recommended for cognitive rehabilitation (Thaut, 2010) and it is socially connective, making it an ideal vehicle for manifesting Wilson's suggestions.
Geist is a caregiver for her AD-afflicted father and leverages her father's musical background to elicit responses from him as he has lost many of his cognitive abilties. (Geist, 2009). He was brought home from a nursing facility when his death seemed likely, and has since been kept from retreating with the use of music. He continues to express music and successfully gave a public musical performance despite his significant cognitive impairment.
Alzheimer's Association. (2010). Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Retrieved October 29, 2010 from http://www.alz.org/documents_custom/report_alzfactsfigures2010.pdf
Geist, M. (2009). My father's musical lifeline. Prevention, 61(4), 161-163.
Howe, E. (2008, February) Key psychosocial interventions for Alzheimer’s disease: An update. Psychiatry MMC. Retrieved October 29, 2010 from http://www.psychiatrymmc.com/key-psychosocial-interventions-for-alzheimer%E2%80%99s-disease-an-update/
Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2010). Alzheimer's disease.
Johns Hopkins Health Alerts, Retrieved October 29, 2010 from http://www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com/symptoms_remedies/alzheimers/35-1.html
Mahoney, R., Johnston, K., Katona, C., Maxmin, K., & Livingston, G. (2005). The TE4D-Cog: a new test for detecting early dementia in English-speaking populations. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 20(12), 1172-1179. doi:10.1002/gps.1412.
Thaut, M. (2010). Neurologic music therapy in cognitive rehabilitation. Music Perception, 27(4), 281-285. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.
Wilson, R., Krueger, K., Arnold, S., Schneider, J., Kelly, J., Barnes, L., Tang, Y., Bennett, D. (2006). Loneliness and risk of alzheimer disease. Retrieved October 27, 2010 from http://www.ageserve.com/PDF/Rush%20Loneliness%20Study.pdf
Wilson, R., Scherr, P., Schneider, J., Tang, Y., Bennett, D. (2007, June 27). Relation of cognitive activity to risk of developing Alzheimer disease. Neurology, 69, 1911-1920