Issue 85, 19 November 1999
The disease of a thousand faces «
Shimmer project to launch in 2000 «
People in profile «
Fleming's early research is honoured «
Library changes «
New facility «
Hats off to the Civil Engineering Contractors' Association «
A word with Chris Wise «
Regular Features
In Brief «
Media Mentions «
Noticeboard «

Shimmer project to launch in 2000

A unique study which monitors the effect of interactive music in sufferers of Alzheimer's disease and dementia will start in January 2000.

Sinfonia 21 has received a grant from the Headley Trust to run a three year research project with Professor Christopher Bulpitt of the centre for therapeutic medicine for the elderly at Hammersmith.

Yannick Donderlinger and Natasha Holmes
Training project musicians Yannick Donderlinger and Natasha Holmes prepare for the Shimmer project
The Shimmer Project will comprise a roster of S21 musicians who have taken part in the Music for Life training programme, co-ordinated by Linda Rose.

It will operate once a week for eight weeks three times a year. Hospital patients from the geriatric wing of Hammersmith, based at Acton hospital, will be the first to benefit.

Kate Dent, Sinfonia 21 development manager, explained:"It is the first interactive project of its type which looks at dementia through music while being researched by a scientific body.

"We believe that the centre of the brain that understands music is the last area to be affected by dementia. In an ideal world, some of the many things we'd hope to achieve would be to add to the client's self-esteem and even perhaps reduce medication levels.

"Patients who respond to nobody find themselves creating music and getting a sense of atmosphere whether they're singing or conducting."

Sinfonia 21's principal flautist,Tony Robb added:" The Shimmer Project is new as we've never before been into a hopsital ward with sufferers.

"In the last two years, we've done five short projects in residential homes for elderly sufferers.We've visited them once a week for a three hour period with one hour spent with residents and the hour either side in discussion.

"All sessions are extremely intense and discuss how each resident has responded. Mostly, they are very positive.

"It's incredibly important that we don't have case histories of clients so there are no preconceptions about what they can do".

"The uplifting moments are when the music really gets going. We try to pick up on the cues that residents give us and often end up with a rich and beautiful sound.

"One former jazz drummer had a superb sense of rhythm. His posture and poise returned when he used a baton and you could see complete control on his face; he was also communicating with very strong eye contact."

Linda Rose, director of Music for Life, said:" The musicians going into this research are the most highly trained.

"A pilot project will run from the end of January to enable the hospital to experience it, then detailed planning will take place.

"It's largely a project about communication - as people relate more easily to one another, the effects of the work takes off.

"During the next three years, we expect very interesting, professional debate to open up between the medical profession and the orchestrsal world.

"On the medical side, research should show what's happening and how patients are responding." Ursula Kirwan, research nurse at Hammersmith hospital concluded: "People are very keen and delighted to have something that might help residents."

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