Mariachi music: New medical hope to awaken memories

Mariachi music has been a hallmark of Mexican culture for a long time. Currently, her songs are being used for something new: revitalizing the memory of people with Alzheimer's disease.

Mariachi music has been a hallmark of Mexican culture for a long time. Currently, her songs are being used for something new: revitalizing the memory of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Mexican Alzheimer’s Center promotes this treatment in the hope that music will awaken memories of the past among patients and encourage them to sing or even dance to familiar old music.

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“It makes me feel very sad because I remember my husband, but apart from that, I listen to the music with joy because it brings back so many memories that make me so happy,” said Leonor Camacho, 90, who suffers from Alzheimer’s in Mexico City.

The center plays Camacho songs related to her husband, relatives and friends to supplement her daily treatment in order to refresh her memory.

The course of treatment, led by female guitarists, violins and trumpeters in short jackets and wide-brimmed hats, began in September and will run through mid-November, and includes performances across the city that patients can attend.

Performances take place in ballrooms and on boats in the waterways of the southern Sochimilco district, home to popular mariachi music in the capital, and in Plaza Garibaldi in the city center, hoping the venues will bring back memories of patients.

Regina Altina, head of the Alzheimer’s Center, said studies show that music stimulates neurotransmitters in the brain, creating a mental and emotional connection that helps patients remember and recall important events in their lives.

The treatment, originally developed by Germany 11 years ago, is touched by mariachi music and takes on a Mexican feel .
Camacho, who has been suffering from Alzheimer’s for five years, is one of about 1.8 million people suffering from dementia in Mexico, and about 1.3 million of them are believed to have Alzheimer’s.

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In the afternoon, Camacho likes to peruse photo albums with her daughter, Maria del Rossio Maya, and keep her mind active by preparing food and doing other household chores.

Maria del Rossio said her mother has become more energetic and taking a more active role in family life again since she started mariachi therapy.

She explained that her mother had previously tended to recline in a chair by the window.

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