Neurologists explain how Tony Bennett continued to perform with Alzheimer's

Neurologists tell News 12 that music can fire up new pathways in the brain.

Gillian Neff and Rose Shannon

Jul 22, 2023, 2:12 PM

Updated 357 days ago


Fans worldwide are mourning Tony Bennett's death – and are praising the legendary singer for his openness about his Alzheimer's diagnosis.
Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2016 but continued to perform until 2021.
"The brain is a remarkable organ and the things that you do very, very well and over many years or decades in Tony Bennett's case kind of stick with you," says Dr. Peter McAllister, Medical Director at the New England Institute of Neurology & Headache. "For example, I have judges and lawyers with fairly advanced Alzheimer's who can recite law better than any junior lawyer, but they can't remember what they had for breakfast."
Neurologists tell News 12 that music can fire up new pathways in the brain.
"You activate emotion, you activate language circuits, you activate rhythm circuits," says Dr. Gayatri Devi, Bennett's Neurologist at Northwell Health.
McAllister says music likely helped Bennett through the tough parts of his illness.
"We know that using your brain in the face of this illness is very important. We encourage people who exercise to do more exercise, people who do crossword puzzles and in Tony Bennett's case, more singing," says McAllister.
McAllister tells News 12 there will soon be several medications available that will slow down the advancement of Alzheimer's.
"I think there is going to be a time in the not too distant future when someone is diagnosed by a blood test or other simple way and put on a medication early in the disease and they'll never progress like Tony Bennett did," he says.

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