Consider donating old iPods to a good cause

Musical memories promise more than just nostalgia.

On a recent trip out of state to visit a friend, “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” by the Talking Heads quickly became the theme song for the trip.

As my friend and I listened to the track several times in the car driving from Point A to B, I once again realized that memories of nearly all of my trips are associated with the music or a book I was reading at the time, and these memories bring me back to a specific time and place. I hear “We Trusted You” by the Transplants, and I’m instantly taken back to a high school band trip and an agonizingly long night when I was unable to sleep on the bus on an overnight drive. “Overgrown” by James Blake brings me back to take off during a flight last year (as you’ve may have read before, I’m a nervous flier.)

I’m far from the only person to associate such memories associated with music, and there are several researchers and organizations putting this to good use.

In 2009, Petr Janta published “The Neural Architecture of Music-Evoked Autobiographical Memories,” a study through the University of California, Davis that found the same region in the brain that supports and retrieves memories is also a hub that links music, memories and emotions.

“What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head. It calls back memories of a particular person or place, and you might all of a sudden see that person’s face in your mind’s eye,” Janata said in 2009 UC-Davis report. “Now we can see the association between those two things — the music and the memories.”

Such studies have led to several other fascinating advances and movements. One is Music & Memory, an organization that collects donated iPods and uses them to help Alzheimer’s and dementia patients use personalized playlists for their care. The nonprofit trains care facility providers to create personalized playlists for people with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive challenges to help them reconnect through musically-triggered memories.

It’s a promising program for the millions of people affected by such conditions — more than 5 million have Alzheimer’s.

And people can help. Music & Memory accepts donations of gently used or new iPods for the program, and they can be donated online at wwwmusicandmemory.org.

 

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