It’s True – Aging Adults can Learn Music and Empower their Brains

Musical instruments, behind the pop appeal and the cool quotient, are really complex equipment, which if used in the right manner and with some creativity, can create sounds that move minds. Apart from developing a sense for art, humans can empower their brains by learning music and musical instruments, because practicing and playing these activates and involves most regions of the human brain.

Several cognitive functions, both in the left and right hemispheres of the brain need to work in tandem and at the same time, for someone to be able to play a musical instrument like it’s meant to. What this means, is that playing a musical instrument is like a full body workout for your brain, with quantifiable long-term benefits. Music creates additional neural connections in the brain, which are potent enough to compensate for any natural declines in cognitive functions brought by the process of ageing.

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Musically Trained Adults have Higher Gray and White Matter in their Brains – Studies Suggest

Gottfried Schlaug, a neurologist from Harvard, published a study in 2003, documenting how he and his team found appreciably higher volumes of gray matter in the brains of professional musicians, as compared to non-musicians. The research also touched upon how an extended period of musical training in the childhood manifested itself in the form of structural changes to the brain, associated with significant auditory and motor skills.

There have been studies that vouch for the effectiveness of musical training in enhancing the plasticity of the brain, enabling it to learn from and adapt to behaviors, environments, and experiences. Studies also suggest that musical training helps establish newer connections within the brain, which is directly associated with empowered processing activity in the brain.

Longer Musical Training Periods Imply Higher Brain Skills in Ageing Adults

Brenda HannaPladdy, a neuropsychologist from Emory University, has established a reputation of sorts, as an authority in the arena of research related to how musical training helps shape the brains of humans as adults. In 2011, she studied 70 adults, all in the age group of 60 to 83 years, and divided them into 3 groups – those who’d been trained to play an instrument for at least 10 years, those who’d trained for less than 9 years, and those who were untrained in music. These subjects were peppered with several neuropsychological tests.

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The group of musically well-trained adults scored appreciably higher points in test areas related to object naming, visual-spatial memory, nonverbal memory, and new information absorption. The control group with no musical background fared worse!

The corollary – more they trained in childhood, better the brains of the adult became. She backed the study up with another research effort in 2012, which suggested how starting musical training at 9 years of age, and pursuing it for about ten years, yielded the most significant brain skills.

Music – Helping Ageing Adults Draw More Meaning from Similar Sounding Words

While learning music, and playing a musical instrument, children are in reality trying to read musical notations, imagine the sound that the notes represent, differentiating between notations, and trying to create their musical meanings by using their fingers on the musical instrument. This precise execution of many brain functions benefits the long-term health of the brain. Researchers have concluded that continued music practice in childhood helps growing and ageing adults in understanding the meanings of similar sounding words.

music in your brain
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Though the loss of hearing prowess is a common phenomenon associated with old age, it’s now been established that musical training can help ageing adults understand consonant sounds better, helping them engage in meaningful conversations despite the depleting auditory capacities. Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist from Northwestern University in Chicago, studied 44 adults and concluded that people who had trained in music for longest periods were also the quickest in identifying synthesized syllables of speech in the study.

Music training also improves the auditory working memory, which is critical to an adult’s ability to engage in conversations and handle communication better.

A Case for Necessary Musical Training for Children?

So many credible researchers suggesting and underscoring the long-term benefits of learning to play any musical instrument at a young age can prove to be scientific evidence for parents to trust and motivate their kids to learn music. The cognitive stimulation that extended practice in playing instruments like guitar, piano, trumpet, and drums, can manifest in the form of healthier, sharper, and more potent brains when children grow into adults.

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