My mother’s husband has Alzheimer’s Disease. He is a lovely, lovely man and it has been incredibly difficult to see him and my mom go to battle (basically unarmed) against this absolutely devastating disease. My mother has published a wonderful photography book about their journey and also writes a blog, the focus of which is often Alzheimer’s related. I have learned a lot over the past decade about Alzheimer’s, the brain, and memory. One of the most interesting things that I’ve learned recently is that music is often one of the last ways possible to connect with someone who is in the latter stages of the disease. This article offers great insight into why that is.
I have to say that while I find the music/memory connection to be interesting, especially as it pertains to Alzheimer’s disease, I do not find it surprising. Just today, I put on the Echo and the Bunnymen station on Pandora.com and was immediately transported back to Athens, Georgia circa 1986. Crazy how quickly that can happen. I don’t always enjoy taking the musical journey back in time. Sometimes, the memories that come flooding back make me feel melancholy–or just plain old. Often though, I wind up with a spring in my step or some new clarity on an issue that previously had left me baffled. The majority of the time, I end up thinking of someone who I haven’t thought of in years or of an event that until that moment had been buried in the recesses of my memory-stuffed mind. I wonder why our brains associate music so closely with memory? I know it can happen with smell as well, but for me, it is much more common with music.
Alzheimer’s is awful. There is no cure and honestly, not enough is being done to find one. I am grateful that my mom and people like her are trying to do something about that. In the meantime, I am also grateful that for people like her husband there is a music/memory connection, and I hope that connection makes their lives a tiny bit more bearable.
My husband and I named our son, in part, after Ian McCulloch, the lead singer of Echo and the Bunnymen, so in honor of that particular memory I am sharing this video.
How strongly do you associate memory and music?