Researchers have found that because rhythm is so intrinsic to our nature, Alzheimer's patients, even in the latter stages of the disease, can copy simple rhythms played on a drum. This form of interaction takes on great significance when all other forms of communication have been diminished. Drumming seems to focus Alzheimer's patients for a short time, and they seem momentarily coherent. These interludes, however brief, are priceless to loved ones.
Drumming and Stress Management
Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath...It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. -Natalie Goldberg
How does the drum help to relieve stress? There are numerous ways this occurs. When people drum, they are generally having fun. It is difficult to be in a playful mode and be stressed at the same time. Also, as described previously, the drum has the capacity to release negative feelings-of which stress is clearly one. When one hits the drum, he or she is placed squarely in the here and now. Some of our stress is created from past or future thoughts of fear, worry, or regret, but it is very difficult to be stressed and be in the present moment.
Drumming increases our Alpha brainwaves, those brainwaves associated with feelings of well-being and euphoria.
In a recent interview, Dr. Barry Quinn, a licensed clinical psychologist, described his results of working with drumming to increase the Alpha brainwaves of his hypervigilant (highly stressed) patients.
"What I've found in my clinical work over the past 11 years is that as least 20% of the population does not have Alpha brainwaves. Alpha waves occur when the brain relaxes lightly into an 8 to 12 cycles per second brainwave pattern. Most individuals should be producing this brainwave pattern when they close their eyes and relax their mind. In a thirty minute ideal Transcendental Meditation the brain spends approximately 20 minutes in an Alpha state and 10 minutes in the deeper Theta (4-8 cps) mental state.
"There are benefits associated with Alpha waves, such as the ability to relax and keep the mind on idle when it is not focusing on a specific task. Alpha is associated with a general feeling of well-being and euphoria. Individuals who have very high amplitude of Alpha brainwaves have been found to be able to experience more "lucid dreams." People with lower than normal amounts of Alpha or no Alpha have much more mental stress than other people.
"There is also a category of people who don't have any Alpha waves and also have low amplitude brainwave activity across all bands. I see this in about 30-40% of the patients I treat. Neurologically, we refer to these people as hypervigilent. The definition of hypervigilence is someone who cannot turn off his or her mental activity for any length of time. They must always be thinking or focusing on something. They tend not to be able to let go of emotional issues but rather obsess relentlessly about them. Many with this brain pattern become alcoholics and highly addicted in a way that makes stopping drinking very difficult for them. It's very hard for them to relax and unwind. Therefore, they generally have a lot of sleep disorders as well. Anything that would increase their Alpha waves would be very beneficial to them.
"In pain patients, the amount of Alpha brainwaves a patient has is also an indicator of how well the patient is managing his or her pain. If patients are not managing their pain well, or are over-focused on it, they will lose Alpha waves. On the other hand, if a pain patient is having a good day, the Alpha will go back up.