Music and Dementia Research

Meaningful Music: Music and Dementia Research

Identifying responses to music engagement that matter most for people affected by dementia

Why are we undertaking this research? 

An estimated 90,000 people in Scotland are diagnosed with dementia, with a similar number likely to have dementia but no diagnosis.   There is currently no cure for dementia and, while pharmaceutical treatments can be used to treat the symptoms of dementia, some of these can have negative side effects.   Consequently, there is a growing interest in non-pharmacological interventions for people living with dementia, particularly for treating symptoms of stress and distress.   

Music can be of major importance in many people’s lives, and has been identified as a potentially important non-pharmacological intervention for people living with dementia.   Music has been shown to facilitate conversation, interaction, emotion regulation and to improve the quality of life for people living with dementia.  In this study we are interested in finding out more about how music has an impact on the lives of people living with dementia and we are aiming to identify responses to music engagement that matter most for them. 

This study is being conducted by Lucy Forde and Anna Bryan, and led by Dr Tom Russ, Director of the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre.  The study is funded by the Chief Scientist Office.

What are we doing? 

We have been running online focus groups with people affected by dementia from October to December 2021 using the online platform Zoom.  The results from this research will help us to understand more about any positive and negative effects of music for people living with dementia and will give us a better understanding of which responses to music are most important to capture in future research. 

What will happen at the end of the project? 

Thank you to all of the participants who took part in our focus groups.  The study is due to complete in the spring of 2022 after which we will share some of our initial findings with interested participants.  Following this, we aim to publish the findings of the study in a peer-reviewed journal article.

Research Team 

Lucy Forde ( is a musician, creative music director, music educator and PhD researcher at the University of Edinburgh.  Lucy’s PhD research is focussing on music making with people living with dementia with a focus on the experiences of music professionals who work with people with dementia.  


Anna Bryan ( is a PhD student at the Advanced Care Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh. Anna’s research focuses on how personalised music can help improve quality of life for those living in care homes.


Dr Tom Russ ( is a consultant psychiatrist in NHS Lothian with clinical responsibility for two hospital-based complex clinical care units as well as working at the Memory Assessment and Treatment Service. He is Director of the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre and an honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, both at the University of Edinburgh.