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Creative Communication and Dementia

A Workshop for Caregivers

Saturday, April 24, 2021
4:00 PM–5:30 PM

Besides the physical and financial toll dementia inflicts, perhaps its most destructive repercussion is the breakdown of communication. How can we better communicate with our loved ones living with dementia?

Cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Julene Johnson, PhD, and music therapist Liza Wu, MT-BC, LCAT, offer an exploratory discussion and workshop with the intention of uncovering an alternative way to communicate that relies on our senses.

Observe or participate in this one-of-a-kind workshop that translates sights into music. You’ll learn how shifting between states of awareness can change the way we communicate with those experiencing cognitive decline.

This workshop is intended for caregivers and not for persons with dementia.

About the Speakers

Julene K. Johnson, PhD, is a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco, Institute for Health and Aging with an undergraduate degree in music. She is the co-director of the new Sound Health Network. She has a longstanding interest in studying music and health in both healthy aging and persons living with dementia. Her previous work investigated preserved music skills in persons with Alzheimer’s disease and the relationship between brain and music recognition in various neurodegenerative diseases. In 2010 she was a Fulbright Scholar in Jyväskylä, Finland, where she studied how community choirs help promote well-being among older adults. Dr. Johnson also examines the historical roots of music in 19th-century neurology and psychology literature, which helps frame interdisciplinary research questions about music, the brain, and health. In her spare time, she plays the flute and kantele and sings in a community choir.

Liza Wu is a board certified music therapist in New York State. She is also an accomplished pianist who has performed at Carnegie Hall. She is passionate about using music to create meaningful connections and experiences. She strives to enable anyone to participate in music making or song writing regardless of skill level. She currently works with older adults in a nursing home to help them sing and write songs. In her private practice she uses her music and therapy skills to improve her clients’ quality of life.

About Brainwave 2021: Awareness

In our hyperconnected world it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and distracted. This may seem like a modern problem, but the earliest Buddhist teachings sought to help followers awaken from similar states of disconnection. From the Buddhist perspective, the first step to awakening is cultivating awareness.

Through the lens of neuroscience and psychology, the Rubin Museum’s 2021 Brainwave program series will explore awareness with speakers from different walks of life and experiment with tools to reconnect with ourselves, our surroundings, and our communities. Pay what you wish to attend any of this year’s programs.

Lead support for Brainwave is provided byScience Sandbox, an initiative of Simons Foundation, and by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Major support is provided by Gerry Ohrstrom with program support provided by Cheryl Henson.


Suggested Ticket Price: $15

Pay what you wish to attend this program. A generous ticket purchase shows your support of the Museum and helps us develop future offerings.

If you’d like to participate in this workshop, add a $0 participant ticket to your cart in addition to your regular ticket purchase. Space is limited.

As a participant, you will be able to unmute yourself to share your reactions to an artwork from the Rubin Museum’s collection. The presenters will weave these reactions into music.

Find the Zoom link to connect to the program in your confirmation email. View our Frequently Asked Questions for more information, or contact the Box Office at for assistance.