Like many of us, Former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart has been affected by Alzheimer's. His grandmother suffered from the disease, and watching her deal with it made him wonder what he could do to help others in the same situation.
During the time Hart spent with his ailing grandmother, he realized that when he played drums for her, she became more responsive. Since then, he has invested a lot of time and money in exploring the therapeutic potential of rhythm. Thirteen years ago, he founded Rhythm for Life, a nonprofit organization promoting drum circles for the elderly.
Recently, Hart has teamed up with neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley, who studies cognitive decline and prevention, to begin researching the link between brain waves and memory. Gazzaley and his lab have developed a piece of technology that can project an image of the brain in real time while Hart is drumming. Hart wears the device (called an electroencephalogram) on his head while performing, and the projected image lights up and changes colors in relation to his rhythm changes.
"This concept that rhythm might be therapeutic has been around for a long time; there's just really not studies that have carefully controlled a rhythmic experiment and looked for changes in the brain," Gazzaley told KGO. He hopes to build on his work with Hart to develop ways of capturing brain data in real-time and using it to provide feedback on how performing certain tasks improve brain functions.