How Music Helps Senior Brains
Just as its never too early to start benefiting from music, its also never too late.
Seniors who play an instrument, sing, or dance derive physical, psychological, and social benefits from music.
Music protects against memory problems and cognitive decline even more than other leisure activities.
Seniors with musical backgrounds score higher on cognitive tests and show greater mental flexibility than their non-musical counterparts.
Listening to music has been shown to significantly improve working memory in older adults.
Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet is one of the most successful and wealthy investors in the world.
He also has a hidden talent hes an accomplished ukulele player!
Playing the ukulele has helped to keep him mentally sharp into his 90s.
How Music Acts As A Natural Panacea
It seems that music can heal whatever is ailing you, be it a mental health disorder or neurological disease.
Music can alleviate the symptoms of many mood and mental disorders including:
Music shows promise in treating stroke, autism spectrum disorder, and Alzheimers.
Music can also help with the psychological aspects of illness and can improve the quality of life in patients with cancer, dementia, Parkinsons, and chronic pain.
Listening to music reduces the stress experienced by patients both before and after surgery.
It can and delirium that affects some elderly patients while theyre recovering from surgery.
How The Brain Processes Music
In his book This Is Your Brain On Music, professor Daniel J. Levitin writes that musical activity involves nearly every region of the brain that we know about, and nearly every neural subsystem. That means that whether youre picking out a melody on your guitar, or listening to a symphony orchestra, virtually your entire brain is keenly engaged in the process. In fact, part of what makes understanding musics effect on the brain so complicated is that there is no single musical centre. Like with understanding language, music is processed in different ways: one part of our brain decodes pitch and tempo, for example, while other parts tap into memory and emotion. If you play an instrument, your brain also has to figure out what to do with your hands, while yet another part is used to read notes off the page.
I think that there is sufficient evidence to say that yes, music does have beneficial powers for the brain, says Dr. Lola Cuddy, professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology at Queens University. But we have to be very careful. She says thats because there have been a lot of sensational claims around music that have now been discredited because they couldnt be proved scientifically .
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Sing Dance Move To The Beat: It’s All Good For Mood Memory And More
by Rachel Nania, AARP, June 30, 2020
En español | If you want to do something good for your brain, turn on your music player and sing along to a few songs. Better yet, sing and dance at the same time.
It sounds like a simple exercise, but, really, it’s a full brain workout. That’s because music stimulates many areas of the brain, including those responsible for memory, movement and mood, according to a new report from the AARP-founded Global Council on Brain Health . Music even gets different parts of the brain working together simultaneously.
Is Music Important In Helping Mental Wellbeing
Yes, music is important in promoting mental wellbeing, a keystone of brain health requiring as it does the balancing of powerful negative and positive emotions. In general, the positive effect of music is a result of its impact on mood and arousal, and the listeners enjoyment. By mood, we mean long-lasting emotions. By arousal, we mean the level of physiological activation the key to regulating consciousness, attention, alertness and information processing. The emotional impact of music seems to be determined by its tempo and the mode . Fast tempo and major mode music tend to evoke a positive/happy mood and higher arousal levels, whereas slow tempo and minor mode music evoke a more negative/sad mood and lower arousal levels.
We need no better example of the uplifting effects of music than Mstislav Rostropovichs cello recital as the Berlin Wall came crashing down in 1989. Enhanced mood and arousal levels plus listener enjoyment all lead indirectly to improved cognitive function, particularly memory and learning. Interestingly, background music appears to have a different effect than listening directly to music the so-called the Mozart Effect.
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It Helps The Symptoms Of Depression
A 2017 research review concluded that listening to music, particularly classical combined with jazz, had a positive effect on depression symptoms, especially when there were several listening sessions conducted by board certified music therapists.
Not into jazz or the classics? You may want to try a group percussion session instead. The same research review found that drum circles also had above-average benefits for people dealing with depression.
Music Affects Each Brain Differently
One of the common questions from people who want to use music to better themselves is: What is the best kind of music to listen to?
The answer is: It depends.
First, consider what you hope to achieve.
For example, listening to tunes with lyrics can be distracting if you are trying to learn and process new information.
However, this kind of music can be helpful if you are working on repetitive or mundane tasks.
A surprising finding is that listening to the wrong kind of music for the situation can sometimes be dangerous.
Patients who have had heart surgery should not listen to heavy metal music or techno sounds.
Doing so can be stressful and even cause life-threatening arrhythmias.
Second, youll always get more benefits from listening to music you actually like.
One persons music can be another persons noise, as any parent of a teenager can attest.
Neuroscientists can now see that music affects each persons brain differently.
By using functional magnetic resonance imaging , researchers have found that listening to music you like increases blood flow to the brain and brain connectivity more than listening to music you dont like.
Also, the number of areas in the brain activated by music varies depending on your musical background and tastes.
Research confirms that the best type of music to increase focus and productivity should first and foremost be music you enjoy.
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How Do Musical Memories Differ From Other Long
In order to form and retrieve long-term memories , multiple regions of the brain work together to form a coordinated network that transmits information from one brain region to another. For instance, when you remember what something you saw earlier that day looked like, you are using your occipital lobe, which is involved in vision. When you remember what you were thinking about earlier, or wonder how something that happened may have instead happened differently, you are using your frontal lobe . When you remember other moments in time, such as your own past , you use multiple brain regions, including both the temporal and frontal lobes . All of these different representations are put together in a specific region of the brain called the hippocampus, located within the temporal lobes, to form a memory.
Mr. Wearings brain infection destroyed his hippocampus and other nearby brain regions, causing amnesia. The famous patient Henry Molaison, known by his initials as H.M., also suffered severe memory loss after doctors surgically removed his hippocampus and the tips of both temporal lobes . By studying the cases of Mr. Wearing, H.M., and other individuals with amnesia, we can conclude that the hippocampus and neighboring regions of the temporal lobe are crucial for creating and accessing long-term memories.
Where Do Lullabies Come From
The English word lullaby is thought to come from the lala or lulu sounds made by mothers or nurses to calm children.
Bye is another lulling sound, or a term to say goodnight. A lullaby, or so-called cradle song, has a story to soothe babies and small children to sleep.
Lullabies are found in every culture and sung in every language. Brahms Lullaby is perhaps the most well-known and easily recognizable of the cradle songs.
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It Can Lead To Better Learning
Doctors at Johns Hopkins recommend that you listen to music to stimulate your brain. Scientists know that listening to music engages your brain they can see the active areas light up in MRI scans.
Researchers now know that just the promise of listening to music can make you want to learn more. In one 2019 study, people were more motivated to learn when they expected to listen to a song as their reward.
The Benefits Of Music
The complex changes that occur in our brains when we hear our favorite song are interesting but there must certainly some tangible benefits to listening to music, right? Music has plenty of benefits, but one of them contrary to popular belief may not be making you smarter, despite all those CDs out there targeting parents who want to make their kids brilliant by playing Mozart at an early age.
In a TED talk, cognitive neuroscientist Jessica Grahn gently debunks the hype surrounding the Mozart makes your babies smarter marketing train, which all stemmed from one study. Music itself doesnt make your brain sharper, but rather, how it makes you feel is what’s important. The feelings music conjures can actually improve your performance on cognitive tasks, Grahn explains. She describes several studies where both adults and children listened to classical music or enjoyable familiar songs and then completed tasks. Their performance was improved after listening to music classical or not that made them more aroused and made them feel better, based on personal preferences.
This ability of music then to make us feel good brings with it its own benefits. Grahn says that music can reduce pain or help people recover from stroke or other injuries, and it can also improve our cognitive skills. For those of us who plug into our iPods while working out, music can sometimes even improve endurance. Several studies have also shown that music can improve dementia symptoms.
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We Want You To Succeed
Florida National University is dedicated to helping our students succeed. While you continue to excel at FNU, please take advantage of our helpful resources. As the semester comes to a close, gain tips from our blog article, 10 Ways to Prepare for Your Final Exam, and dont forget your headphones!
If you are not currently enrolled at FNU, browse our programs of study and apply now!
It Can Improve Memory
Music also has a positive effect on your ability to memorize.
In one study , researchers gave people tasks that required them to read and then recall short lists of words. Those who were listening to classical music outperformed those who worked in silence or with white noise.
The same study tracked how fast people could perform simple processing tasks matching numbers to geometrical shapes and a similar benefit showed up. Mozart helped people complete the task faster and more accurately.
Mayo Clinic points out that while music doesnt reverse the memory loss experienced by people with Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia, music has been found to slow cognitive decline , helping people with mild or moderate dementia remember episodes from their lives.
Music memory is one of the brain functions most resistant to dementia. Thats why some caregivers have had success using music to calm dementia patients and build trusting connections with them.
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Conflict Of Interest Statement
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
We extend huge thanks to Dr. Robert Knight. We would also like to thank Keith Johnson, Rafael Nadal, and the BNP Paribas Open 2016 for inspiring the conceptualization of this article.
Sacks, O. 2008. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. New York: Vintage Books.
Dickerson, B. C., and Eichenbaum, H. 2010. The episodic memory system: neurocircuitry and disorders. Neuropsychopharmacology 35:86104. doi:10.1038/npp.2009.126
Jagust, W. 2014. Dad can do time travel but grandpa cant! Front. Young Minds 2:18. doi:10.3389/frym.2014.00018
Benzinger, T. L. S., Blazey, T., Jack, C. R., Koeppe, R. A., Su, Y., Xiong, C., et al. 2013. Regional variability of imaging biomarkers in autosomal dominant Alzheimers disease. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 110:E45029. doi:10.1073/pnas.1317918110
Jacobsen, J. H., Stelzer, J., Fritz, T. H., Chételat, G., La Joie, R., and Turner, R. 2015. Why musical memory can be preserved in advanced Alzheimers disease. Brain 138:243850. doi:10.1093/brain/awv135
Keep Your Brain Young With Music
If you want to firm up your body, head to the gym. If you want to exercise your brain, listen to music.
There are few things that stimulate the brain the way music does, says one Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist. If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout.
Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.
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Learning An Instrument Increases Resilience To Any Age
Brain training is big business. Companies like BrainHQ, Lumosity, and Cogmed are part of a multimillion-dollar business that is expected to surpass $3 billion by 2020. But does what they offer actually benefit your brain?
Researchers don’t believe so. In fact, the University of Illinois determined that there’s little or no evidence that these games improve anything more than the specific tasks being trained. Lumosity’s maker was even fined $2 million for false claims.
So, if these brain games don’t work, then what will keep your brain sharp? The answer? Learning to play a musical instrument.
Does Music Help Stave Off Dementia
So, the $64,000 question. If, say, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and guitarist Sharon Isbin live to be 100, will their musical training help them fend off the depredations of dementia? An overall review of the evidence makes clear that music is very powerful in improving mental health and well-being. But a great deal of work is needed to understand fully some fundamental issues, such as whether music promotes memory and thinking skills as we age and whether listening to or performing music protects the brain against cognitive decline. For example, we know that playing a musical instrument uses many different cognitive skills, such as attention and memory, but we dont know whether continually exercising those skills maintains them in later age. There is also some evidence that playing an instrument throughout life is associated with a lower risk of dementia, but we dont know whether performing music actually causes the brain to be more resilient to disease. And we dont know whether the evidence that resilience observed in the brains of musicians is only true for people playing since childhood, or whether it applies equally to musicians who begin as adults.
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The Powerful Effect Of Music On The Brain
“Music is truly the universal language, and when it is excellently expressed how deeply it moves our souls. David O. McKay
Music has been scientifically proven to have a powerful effect on the brain. Recent research shows that music can help in many aspects of the brain, including pain reduction, stress relief, memory, and brain injuries. In the book The Power of Music, Elena Mannes says, Scientists have found that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function. Lets look at some of the ways music can aid in the healing and stimulation of the human brain.
Listening To Music Soothes Pain
Love listening to your favorite jams on your way to work? Itâs more than just a fun distraction — a team of Swedish researchers found that frequently listening to music you like reduces your cortisol levels. In a case of music over matter, it can also be a great pain killer by simultaneously distracting you and boosting your positive emotions. “Music has a capacity to evoke nostalgia,” says Janata. “Nostalgia is essentially a mechanism that helps provide meaning in life and helps us through our existential crises.”
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How Music Can Make You A Better Person
Music has the power to bring forth our better nature.
Some interesting studies have been done on what researchers refer to as prosocial behaviors.
These are voluntary behaviors intended to benefit others, such as empathy, kindness, generosity, helpfulness, and cooperation.
Listening to music makes people more inclined to spend time and energy helping others.
This is especially pronounced when music is appreciated in a group such as when people dance or play music with others, or attend a concert.
This prosocial effect of music has been observed in both children and adults.
Music has been found to make children as young as 14 months more helpful.
The most effective music has lyrics advocating kindness and helpfulness.
A classic example of a prosocial song isWe Are the World which has been performed for many humanitarian purposes.
Listening to positive lyrics can affect how kind and generous you will be and even how youll spend your money.
Restaurant customers leave bigger tips when music with positive messages is played during their meal.
Prosocial lyrics can even encourage coffee shop customers to buy fair trade coffee.
Positive song lyrics help make people less prejudiced and fearful of those different than them.
When men listen to music with pro-equality lyrics, it positively affects their attitudes and behavior towards women.