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Why Music Is Good For Your Brain

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This blog is based on a recent article entitled “New AARP Report Shows Power of Music on the Brain“, published by AARP’s Brain Health & Wellness.

Sing, dance, move to the beat: It’s all good for mood, memory and more

New AARP Report Shows Power of Music on the Brain

How Music Can Keep Your Brain Healthy
“Nothing activates the brain like music”
Says Jonathan Burdette, a professor of neuroradiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and a contributor to the GCBH report.

And all that brain activation results in some serious health benefits. Researchers have found that music can improve sleep and sharpen memory, as well as reduce stress and stimulate thinking skills — all of which are good for maintaining brain health as we age.

“Music makes everything we know about improving your brain easier”
According to Sarah Lenz Lock, senior vice president for policy and brain health at AARP and executive director of the GCBH. “Music makes the medicine go down.”

Music boosts mood, inspires movement
“When music hits your ears, the sound waves are translated into nerve impulses that travel to several areas of the brain, including those that release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in pleasure”, explains Psyche Loui, an assistant professor in the department of music at Northeastern University and director of the Music, Imaging and Neural Dynamics (MIND) Laboratory.

“In other words, when you hear music, it makes you feel better,” says Jonathan Burdette, who emphasizes that one type of music isn’t superior to others when it comes to its mood-boosting benefits. It all boils down to personal preference, be it Mozart or Madonna.

Music makes everything we know about improving your brain easier. It makes the medicine go down”
According to Sarah Lenz Lock, executive director of the Global Council on Brain Health

A 2020 AARP survey of more than 3,100 adults found that a higher percentage of people who engage in music self-rate aspects of their quality of life and happiness as excellent or very good. They also report lower average levels of anxiety and depression.

Music Facilitates Social Interaction
“What’s more, music facilitates social interactions — another boon for the brain. When adults sing or perform together, they experience less loneliness and a better quality of life”, compared with adults who don’t create music with others, says Julene Johnson, a professor at the Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).  And both strong social ties and improved mental well-being are associated with reduced risks for cognitive decline and improved brain health, previous reports from the GCBH have found.

Music promotes movement – another key component to brain health
As stated by AARP-founded Global Council on Brain Health:

“Along with improving mood, music promotes movement — another key component to brain health. Emerging research shows that one of the best ways to protect the health of your brain as you age is to embrace healthy lifestyle habits, including regular physical activity.”


Music has healing powers, too
Experts are harnessing the power of music to help adults recover from brain injuries and diseases and to ease the symptoms they cause.

One example can be seen in stroke rehabilitation. Many adults who suffer a stroke lose their ability to speak. Oftentimes, however, they can still sing, and music therapists can help stroke survivors regain their speech through singing. Similarly, many adults with Parkinson’s disease struggle to walk, but music and dance can strengthen movement and improve gait.  Music can thus canhelp the brain restore impaired movement.

For older adults with dementia, caregivers and therapists use music to trigger memories. A song from someone’s childhood, for example, can help the patient recall people and places from that time in her life.

Music can improve brain health now
The best news from the report is that it takes very little time, money and effort to reap the brain benefits that music provides. Recommendations from the report include singing and dancing more, listening to new and familiar tunes, and engaging in music with others.

Of course, playing an instrument is good for the brain, too, as it requires the use of many cognitive skills, such as attention and memory. “But not everybody can do that,” Wake Forest’s Burdette observes. “And I don’t want people to feel bad if they’re not learning how to play the violin at age 75.” Rather, he says, it’s about making a little room in your life for music, more broadly. Even just listening to music has its benefits, AARP’s Lock says.

Looking to the future
Studies exploring music’s impact on health and well-being have come a long way in recent years. Last September the National Institutes of Health announced a $20 million investment to support research into music’s benefits for a wide range of medical disorders. Even so, experts say more needs to be done to fully understand the protective and healing benefits music can have on brain health.


 = = = > click here to read the report from the Global Council on Brain Health, entitled “Music on Our Minds:  The Rich Potential of Music to Promote Brain Health and Mental Well Being” 
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Comments (2) on "Why Music Is Good For Your Brain"

  1. Awesome article on the many benefits of music!  I went to college with someone who went on to become a music therapist and now works with people who suffer from mental illness like depression and anxiety.  It really help make a bad day better, and I agree about feeling inspired when I listen to music.  Regarding “brain exercise,” I often am listening to music with Spanish lyrics since I’m a native English speaker trying to learn a new language.  It has helped me in ways I didn’t expect.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Max.  Yes, music brings us many benefits.  I can see where a music therapist used music with people who suffer from mental illness.  Music is definitely the “language of the soul”.  I’m interested in  what you shared about listening to music with Spanish lyrics; please let us know if it helps you.

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