top of page

Music Therapy Increases Social and Emotional Well-Being in Persons With Dementia: A Randomized Clinical Crossover Trial Comparing Singing to Verbal Discussion

Contact Information


Alaine E Reschke-Hernández,

Alzheimer’s; emotions; evidence-based practice; feelings; social engagement.


The number of people living with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) is growing proportional to our aging population. Although music-based interventions may offer meaningful support to these individuals, most music therapy research lacks well-matched comparison conditions and specific intervention focus, which limits evaluation of intervention effectiveness and possible mechanisms. Here, we report a randomized clinical crossover trial in which we examined the impact of a singing-based music therapy intervention on feelings, emotions, and social engagement in 32 care facility residents with ADRD (aged 65-97 years), relative to an analogous nonmusic condition (verbal discussion). Both conditions were informed by the Clinical Practice Model for Persons with Dementia and occurred in a small group format, three times per week for two weeks (six 25-minute sessions), with a two-week washout at crossover. We followed National Institutes of Health Behavior Change Consortium strategies to enhance methodological rigor. We predicted that music therapy would improve feelings, positive emotions, and social engagement, significantly more so than the comparison condition. We used a linear mixed model approach to analysis. In support of our hypotheses, the music therapy intervention yielded significant positive effects on feelings, emotions, and social engagement, particularly for those with moderate dementia. Our study contributes empirical support for the use of music therapy to improve psychosocial well-being in this population. Results also highlight the importance of considering patient characteristics in intervention design and offer practical implications for music selection and implementation within interventions for persons with ADRD.


Reschke-Hernández, A. E., Gfeller, K., Oleson, J., & Tranel, D. (2023). Music Therapy Increases Social and Emotional Well-Being in Persons With Dementia: A Randomized Clinical Crossover Trial Comparing Singing to Verbal Discussion. Journal of music therapy, 60(3), 314–342.





Conent Area

Alaine E Reschke-Hernández

EWB-Related Construct

(3) positive affect

Study Design

Species or Study Population

(5) RCT

Sex (%Female)


Age (Mean, SD)

84.13, 8.44

Younger Controls?


Longitudinal Data?


Sample Size



8-week music therapy trial

Ethnicity (%white)


Inclusion Criteria

(1) at least 65 years old,
(2) resided at their facility for at least three months
(3) had a formal dementia diagnosis

Exclusion Criteria

(1) We excluded candidates who did not speak or understand English fluently,
(2) had a history of severe mental illness, received hospice services, or were bedridden at enrollment.

EWB Measures

(1) Observed Emotion Rating Scale (OERS)
(2) Dementia Mood Picture Test (DMPT)

Non-EWB Behavioral

(1) Clinical Dementia Rating
(2) The Montreal Cognitive Assessment
(3) Katz Index of Independence in Activities of Daily Living
(4) Social engagement: Menorah Park Engagement Scale (MPES)

(1) Observed Emotion Rating Scale (OERS)
(2) Dementia Mood Picture Test (DMPT)

Physiological Measures


Brain IMaging Modality

Brain IMaging Paradigm


Brain Region/Circuit


Biological Measures


Other Neural Measures

Data Availability?


Data Avalability Details


Diagnostic Measures

bottom of page