Santana, Sebastian

Project title: Music and Dementia: Exploring Protective Factors for Cognitive Function

Department: Psychology

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Stuart MacDonald

"Dementia is a chronic and progressive neurodegenerative syndrome that impacts the lives of millions of Canadians. One of the most debilitating dementia-related impairments is the progressive deterioration of the capacity to solve complex problems and manage novelty, usually referred to as dysexecutive syndrome. Such declines in executive function (EF) are commonly associated with additional impairments including loss of independence, social isolation, passivity, depression, and other negative outcomes. For these reasons, there is a clinical and practical imperative to identify protective factors that may mitigate the progressive deterioration of EF in people with Dementia.

This project will analyze data from the Voices in Motion (ViM) choir. ViM is a novel interdisciplinary socio-cognitive intervention that seeks to support both individuals with dementia and their caregivers. Spanning a period of two years, two professionally-directed choirs were implemented. During that time, numerous assessments of neuropsychological function, physical health, social connection, and emotional well-being were sampled using an intensive repeated measures design. This research design facilitates a comprehensive multilevel analysis of potential factors that modulate trajectories of change in executive functions for those with Dementia, pursuant to onset of choir participation. The proposed analyses of change will aim to identify key factors that buffer the progressive deterioration of EFs and quantify their impact. These findings will help expand our understanding of socio-cognitive interventions and their potential impact for maximizing the cognitive abilities of people with Dementia."