Music and Laughter Are Strong Medicine Against Dementia

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by Niko Mann |

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music and laughter

(Photo by Niko Mann)

When my 67-year-old mother was diagnosed with stage 4 uterine cancer I was devastated. My mother already was disabled from depression and fibromyalgia, so being diagnosed a few months later with Alzheimer’s disease along with terminal cancer seemed like a cruel joke.

Soon after I learned of the diagnosis, Mom and I were trying to forget our troubles by watching TV when a commercial for a chemo medication came on, creating an awkward moment. The commercial couldn’t end soon enough, and lo and behold, the next commercial was for Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

When the next commercial was for an Alzheimer’s medication, I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “Please make it stop.” After the next commercial was for Parkinson’s disease, all I could say to Mom was, “At least you don’t have that disease, too.” We both started laughing at the absurdity of the situation. After all, there are just some things in life that you can’t control. The old adage that laughter is the best medicine is true and sometimes the only thing that works. The other remedy I have found for cheering up a dismal day is music.

Studies have shown that music stimulates the memory as well as emotional areas of the brain in dementia patients, and as a caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient, I have found that music is quite therapeutic.

According to neurologist Oliver Sacks, our memories are embedded in familiar music, and dementia patients can temporarily retrieve lost experiences by listening to it. “With Alzheimer’s, you lose your past, your story, your identity to a considerable extent. … [W]ith familiar music, you can at least regain that for a little while.”

Finding her words is often difficult, but if music is playing or a commercial comes on the TV with a catchy tune, Mom is suddenly singing and dancing in her chair. Playing music in the morning or before she will be socializing has been helpful because she is in a better mood and more engaged in the conversation. I’ve also noticed that she is more coordinated, or at least able to laugh about it when she is not.

Music also releases dopamine in the brain, which produces stimulation. Sometimes I will sing (badly) as I am doing tasks, changing the lyrics to make them silly or rhyme, which prompts her to laugh or create her own humorous comment. Music makes her more engaged in the conversation and her natural sense of humor more abundant. It is during moments like these when I am the most at peace because for a few moments, original Mom is back and all the lights are on.


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s Disease.


Max Elliot Anderson avatar

Max Elliot Anderson

Humor Book UPDATE

CONTACT: Max Anderson
[email protected] 

“The Sense of Humor”
Let Humor Fast Track You to Healthier, Happier Living

Rockford, IL - Max Elliot Anderson announces the release of his new book, The Sense of Humor - Let Humor Fast Track You to Healthier, Happier Living, is available from Elk Lake Publishing. ISBN: 9781942513971 | ASIN: 1942513976

“During these uncertain times, what people need most is a good laugh. Imagine what would happen if we understood there is an untapped force, contained within us, that has the power to totally change our lives. And what if we discovered, all we had to do in order to unlock this secret, is to simply start using it?”

The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that 85% of all human illnesses are curable by the body’s own healing system. Recent data suggests the more positive input we can include in our lives, the more we are supporting our body’s ability to tap into its natural healing process.

The Sense of Humor is divided into two sections. The first explores the benefits of incorporating humor in medicine, relationships, the classroom, families, the workplace, by youth workers, pastors, counselors, and more. 

“This project began as a simple joke book,” Anderson continued. “But through my video production work with clients, I began to discover the healing value of laughter and humor plus the benefits being found in business and industry where humor was used.”

The second part of The Sense of Humor contains hundreds of jokes and humor arranged in sections that relate to each of the major subjects found in the first. 

Studies reveal that humor aids in the healing process. And a personal sense of humor helps combat stress and depression. In business, one of the primary traits the human resources department looks for is a healthy sense of humor in job applicants. People without a sense of humor aren’t expected to go far. 

A pastor notes, “Humor is disarming. It makes us deal with issues we wouldn’t face otherwise. Humor is more than a joke at the end of a sermon.” As one youth pastor puts it, “The way to a student’s heart is through his funny bone.” 

Education professionals tell us laughter encourages learning. Humor leads to an increase in attention span and it can help both the students and the teacher. Educators find, when used in teaching, humor promotes better retention, better understanding, along with more attentiveness and alertness. 

Research also demonstrates how humor can make sense in the life of anyone who is willing to use it. Outside of this primary benefit, humor touches the lives of everyone around the user in positive ways. 

This book is listed as a resource on the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor website.

Max Elliot Anderson is best known for his many action-adventures and mysteries written for middle grade readers. The Sense of Humor, with its clean content, is intended primarily for adults. This book has been embraced by The Humor Project and The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor.

The Sense of Humor Promo blog  

Bio for Max Elliot Anderson

Max Elliot Anderson has spent most of his life in the production of documentary and dramatic films, client videos, and television commercials. Most of his previous writing includes adventures and mysteries that bring the same visual excitement, and heart-pounding action from those productions into his books for middle grade readers 8 and up.

While producing video programs and commercials for clients, he observed the important role humor played in many different situations. The Sense of Humor is a culmination of those experiences and observations, and is intended to help people understand the power a positive sense of humor offers.

Mr. Anderson is listed in Who’s Who in America and his productions have won multiple Telly Awards. He and his wife Claudia have two children and five grandchildren.

Amazon link
The Sense of Humor Promo Video 

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Sue Lyon avatar

Sue Lyon

Humor is great as a weapon against the blues and depression. Music is great too and we never lose the ability to understand music-even with Alzheimer's Disease. It is processed in many parts of the brain. So, music can always spark memories and hopefully improve mood.A good resource for using music while reminiscing is called LifeSongs. They are recordable scrapbooks and you can find them at


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