We have written before about studies that have found music has rather amazing impacts on people… from people learning math better if they learn to play a musical instrument to people suffering with dementia responding and having some improvements if they are given music to listen to.
We recently ran across another study regarding music’s impact on people with Mild Cognitive Impairment (“MCI”) and even those with dementia. The researchers from that study said it gave good evidence that listening to their favorite songs can help revive memory. The study at the University of Toronto demonstrated that listening to songs that have personal meaning to the listener can improve the memory and learning abilities of people with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease.
Michael Thaut, PhD, said “We have new brain-based evidence that autobiographically salient music — that is music that holds special meaning to a person, like the song they danced at their wedding — stimulates neural connectivity in ways that help maintain higher levels of functioning.”
In the study, fourteen people in the early stages of MCI — six musicians and eight non-musicians spent an hour a day for three weeks listening to a playlist of songs that they were familiar with and liked.
The study participants also had brain scans before and after listening to the music to see what kind of changes occurred in their brain structure and function. While their brains were being scanned they listed to samples of music they were familiar with and also with new songs that they had never heard before. When listening to music they had not heard before most of their brain activity was in the auditory cortex, which is a section of the brain's temporal lobe that processes signals sent from the ears.
The results showed that when people listen to music they have already known for a long time, it activates the brain network in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain that is involved in creativity, problem solving and reasoning. According to the researchers, that shows that familiar music stimulates more extensive cognitive engagement.
Additionally, the research results showed that repeated listening to familiar music improved memory and intellectual abilities in everyone involved in the study — both musicians and non-musicians.
Dr. Thaut said that “Whether you’re a lifelong musician or have never even played an instrument, music is an access key to your memory — your pre-frontal cortex.” He said “It’s simple — keep listening to the music you’ve loved all your life. Your all-time favorite songs, those pieces that are especially meaningful to you — make that your brain gym”.
Besides all that, other research has found numerous other benefits music can have for a variety of brain issues. Such as:
¨ Music can help stop a seizure. A study at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth shows that listening to music by Mozart can reduce spikes of epilepsy-associated electrical brain activity in people with medication-resistant epilepsy. In this study, as little as 30 seconds of Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major helped improve brain function. The investigators believe that the music may activate networks within the brain, regulated by the frontal cortex, that are linked to positive emotional responses.
¨ Dancing to music can slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. A review study at York University in England showed that an hour or so of dance training can show down the worsening of speech problems and balance issues in people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease.
¨ Daily listening to vocal music can help stroke victims recover their language skills. Research at the University of Helsinki shows that listening to music speeds the recovery of the structural connectivity of the brain’s language network in the left frontal lobe. And the study found that music was even more effective at facilitating language recovery than listening to audiobooks.
Given all these amazing research findings, it might be tempting to listen to music nearly all the time! However, one caution that came out of some other studies was to not listen to music right before going to bed. According to sleep researchers at Baylor University, listening to music with a catchy tune at bedtime can set off brain activity that may disrupt your sleep.
So it is suggested that people listen to lots of bright tunes during the day, and go for more silence before going to bed.
We don’t know about you, but we are certainly even more sold than ever on the importance of music and also of research. We are thankful for all the people that do such research and we hope you found this information as fascinating and exciting as we did.
Now, why don’t you go enjoy some tunes… and enjoy them even more now that you know all the amazing benefits such an enjoyable activity can have on you!