How to Live Stress Free and Musically: Memory Triggers

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Music has the amazing ability to seal and trigger memories. Whether they’re good or bad memories, when a song was playing during the making of a memory, that song will forever remind you of that memory. When I was a kid, I would spend most of my days hanging out with my grandma in her tiny apartment. Like me, she is a tiny woman with a huge love for music. I remember sitting with her in the living room and sifting through her old vinyl records, watching her smile with delight when she found the record she was in the mood to listen to. Those of you of with Latino descent have probably heard of “Hector Lavoe and the Fania All Stars”. For those of you who haven’t, these guys were the Aerosmith and David Bowie of salsa music during the 1970s and 1908s- and my grandma loved them. When the film El Cantante (starring Jennifer Lopez and her already ex-husband Marc Anthony) came out a few years ago, of course I checked it out. Being that it is a film about the life of Lavoe, it was filled with scenes in which his music was performed. As soon as I heard the songs, memories of those afternoons with my grandma instantly came back. Many other moments in  my life have been accompanied by music but I especially love these memories with my grandma because it possibly explains where I get my love for music.


My grandfather suffers from dementia that is rapidly progressing to the later stages at an alarming rate. He’s already forgetting faces and names but one thing that I have noticed is that although he might be forgetting who we are sometimes, he doesn’t forget his favorite songs. When he hears them, which are usually old salsa songs, he instantly comes back and is his old self again, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes.


Music and memory is a popular research topic amongst those who study and work with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. An organization called Music and Memory works to provide those with special needs, in particular Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, get access to music players. The organization accepts monetary donations in order to purchase iPods for these patients. Their mission is as follows: “…to improve the quality of life for the elderly and infirm through the use of personalized music and digital technology.” This organization was created based on the studies done on these patients proving that music helped to improve their cognitive skills and trigger memory, just in the way I noticed it helped my grandfather.



By Janet Reyes

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