Faculty Perspectives: Heidi White

Heidi White

Heidi White, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine

Bass Connections Project Team: Music and Memory in the Aging Brain

White, Tobias Overath and Cassandra M. Germain led a Bass Connections project to examine the effectiveness of daily music listening on the behavioral symptoms of patients with dementia, and to examine perceptions of caregiver burden before and after the personalized music intervention. The team worked with five pairs of patients and caregivers who live together at home in Durham. Study findings showed a reduction in Caregiver Burden Inventory scores in three out of five caregivers. Some caregivers reported that their loved ones were less agitated immediately after listening to the music, and some said they found the intervention enriching and that it improved quality of life by helping to increase interaction with their loved one.

I can say as a geriatrician in the Department of Medicine that it has been a very enriching experience to work with my faculty colleagues Cassandra Germain, a neuropsychologist, and Tobias Overath, a neuroscientist. They have stretched me, helped me to connect my clinical interests to fundamental neuroscience and been very forgiving when my clinical schedule made it a challenge for me to attend meetings.

The Duke undergraduate students are so amazing. It is always a joy to interact with them at any level, but this project allowed me to develop long-term relationships with Megan Snyder, Amanda Lee and Cole Jenson. I was especially impressed by their willingness to enter the personal space, indeed the homes, of older adults with dementia and their caregivers and to interact with them not just personally but also professionally as researchers.

As I think about the growing wave of older adult baby boomers who will be in need of clinical services, it is reassuring to see college students who see and embrace the needs of the coming decades for our older adult population.

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