Music therapy for dementia, wearable tech and app unlocking benefits of AI awarded $2m grant

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An adaptive music-based app has the potential to provide practical and personalized support for dementia patients globally.

An app unlocking the therapeutic potential of music for people with dementia across Australia will receive $US2 million ($1.3m USD) in grant funding and support from Google’s philanthropic arm, to develop wearable sensors and an AI-enabled music adaptive system and undertake a pilot. in Australia.

MATCH (Music Attuned Technology – Care by EHealth) is an adaptive, music-based tool that aims to address a common challenge for people with dementia – agitation that can occur when emotional and physical needs are not met – by detecting early signs of agitated behavior and regulating mood. and providing music-based interventions to reduce the likelihood or severity of developing challenging behaviour.

Globally, 55 million people live with dementia, 90 percent of whom show agitation, a challenging symptom that can lead to physical and verbal aggression, distress to families and professional caregivers, and, most importantly, poor quality of life for a person with dementia.

University of Melbourne Professor Felicity Baker, principal investigator of the MATCH project, said the app had the potential to provide a practical and personalized tool to help dementia patients globally.

“Many caregivers of people with dementia recognize the importance of music to a loved one’s well-being. We are working to create a better everyday life for people with dementia, their families and carers on the dementia journey, using the proven therapeutic benefits of music with wearable sensors and AI,” said Professor Baker.

The Australian Government’s Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has recommended that every Australian aged care provider provide access to music and art therapy for people in their care by July 2024. A limitation on the number of therapists is expected to see this recommendation not met.

Professor Baker said, “Our music attunement intervention significantly reduces agitation and lowers care costs, however, music therapists implementing the intervention are in short supply and unavailable when episodes of agitation occur.”

“By combining the known therapeutic benefits of patients’ personally preferred music with wearable sensor technology and AI that creates a bespoke music adaptive system, we will be able to provide early detection and treatment of agitation.”

The MATCH app AI system will learn each person’s own unique movement behaviors and positive music interventions, using wearable sensors, monitoring, analysis and music therapy through an improved cycle of detection and interpretation. Music preferred by a person with dementia will be adapted to synchronize and treat their movement.

“Even a small change in movement reduces the cost of care per person, and will reduce the need to use pharmacological interventions that can increase confusion and have other side effects,” Professor Baker said.

“Our app will overcome access and equity barriers by supporting people with dementia whenever and wherever they need it.”

The MATCH project has two components – a training package app for caregivers with a curated list of music to enable targeted music interventions to support caregiving, of which a prototype app has already been developed, and a music-friendly system being developed with funding from Google. org.

Professor Baker said: “The app will integrate a music-friendly system. We are looking for people living with dementia in residential aged care homes and at home to participate in testing our app prototype and developing a music-friendly system.

University of Melbourne professor Lars Kulik, who leads the app’s AI development and integration of sensor data, said the grant would see the technology developed and introduced in Australia before expanding globally.

“We can develop a device like a smartwatch, which can monitor movement, heart rate and other biomarkers. If it detects signs of agitation, the app will play music from a curated playlist designed to calm and soothe them. If the initial music selection is not effective, the individual will continue to change tracks until the condition stabilizes,” Professor Kulik said.

“While developing the technology, we will also have access to Google’s knowledge, expertise and data technologies that would normally be beyond our reach.”’s AI for Global Goal Impact Challenge supports organizations through a $25 million philanthropic challenge for projects that use artificial intelligence (AI) to accelerate progress toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The University of Melbourne is the only Australian institution to receive support for projects using artificial intelligence (AI) to accelerate progress towards these goals through’s $25 million philanthropy challenge. Of the many proposals submitted, 15 were selected for funding. All projects will be open sourced, so other organizations can build on the work.

Google SVP of Research James Manyika said: “Each of the 15 organizations selected shares our vision of using AI to accelerate progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and each organization brings its own expertise to help move the needle.”

“We’re inspired by the possibilities they see in how AI can be used to solve people’s social problems, and we’re excited about the collective impact they’ll have over the next three years.”

More information on the MATCH app project can be found here.

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