Receptive Music Therapy Is More Effective than Interactive Music Therapy to Relieve Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Published:February 04, 2018DOI:



      Music therapy is demonstrated to be effective to relieve the agitation among people with dementia, but the comparative effectiveness of methods of music engagement for people with dementia is uncertain.


      To evaluate the effects on cognitive functions and behavioral symptoms between interactive and receptive music therapies for people with dementia.


      Prospective studies evaluating interactive and receptive music therapies were identified from the OVID databases, included MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and CINAHL. Supplementary search was conducted in Google Scholar. The primary outcome focused on cognitive function; the secondary outcomes were apathy, anxiety, depressive symptoms, agitation, and other behavioral problems. All outcomes were measured by the standard assessment tools. The heterogeneity of studies was examined, and the effects were pooled by meta-analysis. Quality of studies and risk of bias were assessed.


      Thirty-eight trials involving 1418 participants with dementia were included. The mean age ranged from 75 to 90 years, and the percentage of male participants ranged from 6% to 83%. No significant difference was found between participants receiving interactive or receptive music therapy and usual care in cognitive function; the mean difference (MD) of Mini-Mental State Examination was 0.18 [95% confidence interval (CI) −1.34 to 1.69], and −0.15 (95% CI −0.55 to 0.25), respectively. Participants with receptive music therapy had significant decrease in agitation (Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory: MD = −7.99, 95% CI −5.11 to −0.87) and behavioral problems (Neuropsychiatric Inventory: MD = −3.02 95% CI −5.90 to −0.15) compared to usual care, while no significant difference was found between interactive music therapy and usual care in behavioral problems and psychiatric symptoms.


      This study demonstrated that receptive music therapy could reduce agitation, behavioral problems, and anxiety in older people with dementia, and appears to be more effective than interactive music therapy. It is easy and convenient to implement receptive music therapy; therefore, we recommended the use of receptive music therapy in nursing homes, day care centers, and client homes.
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