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Music therapists at Anglia Ruskin aiming to help dementia sufferers with £2.7m project

A £2.7 million project aimed at transforming life for people living alone with dementia, is to be trialled in Cambridgeshire by Anglia Ruskin University music therapists.

They will use artificial intelligence to adapt and personalise live radio to try and address the key causes of hospital admission for those suffering from dementia.

ARU in £2.7m project to help dementia sufferers through music
ARU in £2.7m project to help dementia sufferers through music

Radio Me will tackle issues such as agitation and failing to take medication correctly and as a result, it is hoped quality of life will improve with people able to remain living independently at home for longer.

Jörg Fachner, professor of music, Health and the brain at ARU, said: “Our role is to investigate precisely how people with dementia can benefit from this interactive radio experience.

“Music therapists at ARU and partner organisations will use biomarker responses to fine-tune playlists in order to deliver emotional and cognitive stimulation, and evaluate exactly how interactive music interventions, using AI, can benefit people with dementia in their own homes and in assisted living environments.”

Professor Eduardo Miranda, from the University of Plymouth, added: “Radio Me builds on research carried out as part of our previous EPSRC-funded project into a brain computer music interface, as well as our work on artificial intelligence, music influencing emotion, and the University’s long-running involvement in shaping national policy on dementia.

“Helping people with dementia to stay in their homes for as long as possible, even if they live alone, is a key aim of the project. Technology exists to display reminders about vital daily tasks, but research has shown older adults find modern electronic devices difficult to use, and people with dementia have particular problems.”

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded project will capitalise on the popularity of radio among the age group most likely to be living with dementia, developing a way to seamlessly ‘remix’ live digital broadcast so that listeners will receive personalised reminders, information and music.

A user switching on the radio in the morning might find their usual local station. However, at certain points a DJ-like voice could override the real DJ and remind the listener to have a drink or take medicine. Radio Me might detect that the listener is becoming agitated via their bio-bracelet readings. The software could then override the scheduled song choice and select a song from the user’s personal library, known to be likely to calm them.

The project, which is being led by researchers from the University of Plymouth, is a partnership between Plymouth’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research, the Centre for Dementia Studies at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, the Glasgow Interactive Systems group at the University of Glasgow, and the Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research at Anglia Ruskin University.

Non-academic partners in Radio Me are Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, BBC Research and Development, the Alzheimer’s Society, BBC Radio Devon, care provider charity MHA Homes, Bauer Media, the UK’s largest digital radio broadcaster, and speech synthesis company Cereproc Ltd.

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