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Health: Documentary "Alive Inside" Premieres In Philadelphia; Shows The Power Of Music For Those With Dementia

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) --  Music, some believe it's healing power may be able to help millions of Americans battling mind robbing diseases like Alzheimer's.  That's the focus of  a new documentary premiering tonight here in Philadelphia.  3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on the inspiring film.

A filmmaker with Philadelphia roots captured incredible moments across the country, documenting how dementia patients, mostly in nursing homes, can come alive.

"Music connects people with who they have been, who they are in their lives," said Dan Cohen, social worker and founder of the nonprofit Music and Memory.

The film "Alive Inside" shows a powerful connection.

"Music has the phenomenal ability to reach deep in to them and sometimes wake people up who've been sleeping for years," said Michael Rossato-Bennett, the filmmaker who went to Temple University.  He focuses the documentary on Cohen.  His mission is to show the world what music can do, especially for those battling memory loss.  He plays personalized music on iPods for patients in nursing homes.

"One resident that rarely opened her eyes, she didn't respond.   Once we put the iPod on her she started shaking her feet.  She started moving her head.  It was amazing," described a nursing home worker.

Dementia patient Henry often slouches, head down.  But when he listens to music he has outbursts of joy, as if he's trying to sing.

"Music can be very powerful for some of these patients," said Neurologist Adam Weinstein, with the Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter.  He says music can help calm, upset agitated patients.

People in a music therapy class at NewCourtland LIFE in Philadelphia clearly become worry free.

"Memories can be trigged by music.  There are some deeper connections in some of the systems of the brain that are involved in deep emotions, that are triggered very dramatically sometimes in patients by music," said Dr. Weinstein.

The films shows how music can triumph where prescription medication often falls short.

"Alive Inside" won an award at the Sundance Film Festival.  It's premiering tonight in Philadelphia at the Kimmel Center.  Proceeds from the event will benefit the Alzheimer's Association.

Alive Inside Information-

Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter-

Greater Philadelphia Film Office-

Music & Memory Nonprofit Organization Information-

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