As dementia continues to affect millions of elderly Americans, Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory reveals a remarkable, music-based breakthrough that has already transformed lives. Spearheaded by social worker Dan Cohen and captured on camera over the course of three years by filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett, we learn that songs from a patient’s past can awaken memories and emotions that have been asleep for years, sometimes decades.
Within a moment of hearing “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys, Alzheimer’s patient Marylou jolts back to life, dancing around the living room and expressing a euphoria her husband hasn’t witnessed since her illness took effect. Countless instances in Alive Inside provide proof that music stimulates activity in dementia-affected parts of the brain and transforms the quality of life of those often left to languish in silence.
Through revealing conversations with renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks and musician Bobby McFerrin, as well as powerful firsthand experiments conducted by Cohen in nursing homes, this groundbreaking documentary demonstrates how connecting the elderly to the music they love not only combats memory loss but also supplements a broken health-care system often indifferent to interpersonal connections.