Why does music memory outlast most other memories?

For many with dementia, including Alzheimer’s, recalling the name of a loved one is often difficult, if not impossible. Yet this group can often recall the lyrics to many songs. Why does music memory outlast most other memories? According to research, the long-term memory that stores music still exists for people with dementia, and is often activated by music. In fact, hearing a familiar song from the past can spark the memory of lyrics and other details from that period of time when the song was first committed to memory.

Research also supports that person’s with dementia have real and significant responses to music, most commonly elevating their sense of self and connection to others. In the documentary Alive Inside, the effects of music on people living with Alzheimer’s is thoroughly explored and explained. The phenomenon is attributed to music acting as a “backdoor to memory” and viewers of the documentary are instructed in the ways to access this portal and utilize best practices for enjoying music with elders.

The full documentary is just over an hour in length and available in DVD and Live Stream Rental from To listen to an interview with the film’s production team, including Oliver Sacks, a professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine in New York click HERE  To view the trailer of the documentary and learn more about the project visit the website

OPICA has long understood the benefits of music for person’s with dementia, we use Music Therapy as part of our broad range of cognitive stimulation programs for adults challenged by memory loss. To learn more about OPICA’s Adult Day Program click HERE. Help other KNOW MORE, share this information with your social media networks below.

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