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Adults and Music
Studies of adults and music show that learning music may prevent dementia in older adults.
Music helps older brains by changing the way the adult human brain is wired
Neuroscientist Christo Pantev of the Rotman Research Institute, has been studying the effects of playing a musical instrument and vitality in older adults.
He found that persons living in a geriatric center and identified as those who played or once played a musical instrument, were much more active, alert and
had less incidence of memory impairment.
Pantev has developed evidence over the years that the study of music and adults, memory and dementia, shows music changes the way the human brain is wired. And that has kept him on a course that has guided nearly his entire professional career.
Pantev has found that adults learning music can equip the mind to deal better
with such things as mental illness or insults to the brain.
It can force the brain to "increase its resources" by tapping into the neuron pool and redeploying those that are underutilized. Music is quite different from most other learning experiences. "It may be that there is more going on there than simply learning how to make music." Pantev says.
Older adults and music — learning music helps memory function.
Eckart Altenmüller of the Hanover University studied the difference between active musical instruction (learning an instrument) and passive musical instruction (listening to music) and found the results to be equally effective in the short term.
However, it was found that over a longer period of time, the actively taught students retained much more information than the passively taught students. The actively taught students were also found to have greater cerebral cortex
Musical training has been shown to aid in memory functions in many different ways. Although the exact neural mechanism of how it helps it not fully agreed upon, it could be a neural exercise of different parts of the brain which are involved in memory.
Another idea is that it could form neural connections from different angles to a single memory and help to create different pathways for the recall of a single
Adults and music — playing music enhances the brain and sharpens hearing.
Neuroscientists Patrick Wong and Nina Kraus at Northwestern University have uncovered the first concrete evidence that playing music can significantly enhance the brain and sharpen hearing for all kinds of sounds, including speech.
Wong emphasized that these results were seen "in more or less everyday
people. You don't have to be a top musician to find these kinds of effects."
Surprisingly, the researchers found that music training causes changes in the brainstem, the ancient part of the brain responsible for controlling automatic, critical body functions such as breathing and heartbeat.
Music was thought largely to be the province of the cerebral cortex, where higher brain functions such as reasoning, thought and language are seated.
The brainstem was once thought to be unchangeable and uninvolved in the complex processes linked with music.
"These results show us how malleable to experience the brainstem actually is," Kraus said of the findings detailed in the April issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience. "We think music engages higher level functions in the cortex that actually tune the brainstem."
Teaching healthy elderly people to play music decreases their anxiety, depression and loneliness.
This study of adults and music, undertaken jointly by the universities of Miami, South Florida, Kansas, Western Michigan, Michigan State and the Karolinska Medical Institute in Sweden, examined 130 retired people in an effort to link learning music with wellness. Sixty-one of the retirees learned to play the organ over a period of two 10-week semesters while 69 other participants did not.
The researchers ranked the participants according to the Mental Health Inventory Anxiety Scores, the Profile of Mood States Depression/Dejection
Scores and the U.C.L.A. loneliness scale before and after the semesters.
They noted a marked decrease in anxiety, depression and loneliness among those retirees who were attending the music classes.
"Music is the oldest method of relaxation in the world," said Mahendra Kumar, professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami School of Medicine and one of the contributors to the study.
The researchers also took blood samples from the participants before the first lesson and after the participants completed the last lesson in order to monitor any changes in hormone levels that may be associated with wellness. They found that elderly participants who received group music lessons increased their levels of human growth hormone (hGH).