The Effect of Music Therapy on Cognitive Functioning Among Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Published:November 20, 2014DOI:



      To conduct a systematic review and a meta-analysis of current studies to determine whether music therapy affects the cognitive function of older people.


      The databases surveyed include PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, PubMed, MEDLINE, CINAHL, AgeLine, Cochrane Library, and the Chinese Electronic Periodical Services (CEPS) as well as the reference lists of the included studies. The Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) extension checklist for nonpharmacologic treatment was used to evaluate the literature.


      Music therapy intervention offered in nursing homes, hospitals, or communities.


      A total of 234 participants from 5 studies were assessed in the meta-analysis, with a mean age per study of 71.4 to 82.0 years.


      Cognitive outcome domains were analyzed in a systematic review. The short-term effects of music therapy in Mini-Mental State Examination data for meta-analysis were compiled. A forest plot was constructed using a fixed effect model to obtain a pooled mean difference.


      Active music therapy comprising singing and other musical activities was generally determined to effect a significant improvement in the Mini-Mental State Examination according to individual retrieval studies. However, this study showed no significant improvement in the short-term effects of music therapy when all related studies in meta-analysis were combined. The pooled mean difference was 0.73 (95% confidence interval −0.07 to 1.54; Z = 1.79; P = .07) for using music therapy overall and 0.74 (95% confidence interval −0.08 to 1.56; Z = 1.76; P = .08) for using active music therapy.


      The findings of the meta-analysis indicate that the short-term effects of music therapy do not improve the cognitive function of older people. Future studies that utilize a good quality methodology with a long-term design and diversified active music therapy are recommended.


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