We're just back from a fascinating hour at the Music Festival. Featuring two professors and several professional musicians, it was the first in the Sound Mind series that aimed to fuse together the Science and Music festivals. It asked the question Does music make you better? (as in less unwell).Prof. Simon Lovestone kicked things off with a description of what dementias are (including Alzheimer's), what interesting things are happening in scientific research, and the varied groups he'd worked with to help people understand the issues. The latest of these is the Opera The Lion's Face. We also heard from musicians involved in the Music for Life collaboration between Dementia UK and the Wigmore Hall, which brings music therapy to dementia sufferers in care homes. It was affecting to hear of the connections that music can make with the otherwise most withdrawn and uncooperative people. And to hear how special this is for the musicians, and how it forces people to see the gift hidden inside dementia: always living in the present, with little or no past or worry about the future.Finally we heard international violinist Paul Robertson, who apart from his work in the Medici Quartet, has been involved in educating medics about the "art of medicine". His experience became hugely richer after being in a coma for more than a month, and losing the use of the left-hand side of his body. It seems that despite our higher brain function being lost (whilst unconscious) our music-appreciating core continues. It was particularly fascinating to hear him discuss his experience and views on humans as "the musical mammal", plus then hearing him perform some J.S.Bach.Their conclusion? Yes, music can definitely make us better. They think it won't be long until GPs can no longer avoid prescribing music ...It was programmed and introduced by Prof. Ray Tallis; we could have listened and watched much more from the panel ...

AuthorJonathan Clark