Could the music you listen to be the key to keeping your brain healthy as you age? Exciting new research out of Canada seems to think so
Do you ever find yourself returning to the same music over and over again? Do your playlists seem stale but you still just can’t listen to anything else? We haven’t added to our playlists in years, and we feel awful…
But maybe we’ve been undoing the right thing all along?
Music That Plays The Right Notes
Research out of the University of Toronto has shown evidence that repeatedly listening to personally meaningful music can increase brain plasticity in patients with cognitive impairment. The changes from the increased plasticity were associated with increases in memory scores in the patients. This breakthrough could pave the way for new forms of music-based therapy for people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Typically, it’s very difficult to show positive brain changes in Alzheimer’s patients. These preliminary yet encouraging results show improvement in the integrity of the brain, opening the door to further research on therapeutic applications of music for people with dementia.Dr. Michael Thaut
The above quote shows the true difficulty of trying to heal the brain following these cognitive diseases. Although the research is only in its early stages right now, there’s certainly scope for some major developments in the field following these positive results
So What’s Next?
Dr. Corinne Fischer, one of the authors of the study in question, explains just how impactful this research can be. She describes how interventions based on this research have the potential to be “feasible, cost-effective and readily accessible” to patients who are in the early stages of cognitive decline.
What’s interesting to note about this research, is just how the brain reacts to hearing the music. When exposed to new music, the auditory cortex lit up. This shows that the brain is actively engaged in listening to and engaging with the music. However, when familiar music was played the brain’s activity switched to the prefrontal cortex; the control centre of the system. This shows clear executive engagement within the patient’s brain.
This was heralded as the key to unlocking the restorative power of music. Dr. Thaut exclaimed that “It’s simple, keep listening to the music that you’ve loved all your life. Your all-time favourite songs, those pieces that are especially meaningful to you – make that your brain gym.”
Now, the research team is looking to expand the paper by replicating it in a much larger sample. They also hope to introduce a control group to see if musicianship is a moderator of how the brain responds to sound.
We can’t wait to see what they find.
To read the full research paper, click here.
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