June 8, 2023

Taylor Daily Press

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Making music prevents brain aging

Singing on the radio, releasing a beautiful sonata on the piano, not only entertains, but also benefits your brain. New research shows that playing a musical instrument or singing keeps the brain young and vibrant.

It prevents aging, improves neuronal plasticity, and maintains brain function. This certainly applies to the elderly, according to one of them A new Chinese study. More precisely, playing a musical instrument or singing regularly and for a long time makes people, on average, much better at recognizing speech at an older age. They are able to ignore irrelevant information (noise) and understand the audiovisual message better than older adults who do not participate in music training. MRI scans show that different parts of the brain appear younger and take over the functions of other regions. In this way, years of musical training can slow, and in some cases reverse, cognitive decline.

Audiovisual test
Chinese Professor Yi Du Yersu Saintias He explains how the study came about: “We recruited three different types of test subjects: older musicians (they began musical training before the age of 23 and have been a musician for an average of 51 years), elderly non-musicians and young non-musicians. All of these subjects were asked to conduct Audiovisual test while lying down in an MRI scanner.On the screen they saw a person pronounce a syllable, and lip movements were clearly visible on the screen.It was also possible to hear the sound, but it was significantly disturbed by the noise.The task of the subjects was to name the syllables spoken. Meanwhile, the so-calledsignal to noise ratiostrong.”

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Benefits of music training
Brain scans baffled researchers. “Some of our findings surprised us, despite our previous assumptions,” Yi Du continues. We formulated three hypotheses about the benefits of music training on the aging brain. We looked at the degree to which brain function is preserved in specific parts of the brain — how “young” are these brain regions? — and looked at neuronal compensation, where one brain region takes over the functions of another. Third, we looked for a positive effect due to a combination of these two mechanisms or an interaction between them. And we found evidence in our study that confirms the third hypothesis,” says Yi Du.

You either use it or you lose it
“It seemed logical to us beforehand that we would see better preservation of brain function in all brain regions of the frontal and parietal cortex, which are responsible for cognitive control. However, MRI scans showed that this could also be found in sensory regions, which play a role in cognition.” Speech in young people.So it seems that for this ‘You either use it or you lose it’ –The principle applies, ”the researcher explains. In addition, we found neural compensations in parts of the network default mode (DMN). This suggests that music training improves our ability to ignore “background noise” (non-task information) and focus on a specific task. It therefore seems very likely that the benefits of music training are much broader than what we tested in our research. Music training seems to improve the general condition of the brain, which is a surprising and promising idea,” Du says enthusiastically.

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The two mechanisms seem to complement each other. “The most fascinating thing to me is that the two mechanisms — preservation of brain function and neural compensation — co-exist and depend on each other. In other words, the functional compensation seen in the frontal and parietal cortex and the DMN has a positive effect on sensory areas. This means that music training influences affects our cognitive abilities and our brains in a more complex way than previously thought,” said the Chinese scientist.

It’s never too late to start making music
The researcher is very positive about the anti-aging effect of music. “I firmly believe that music training is an important and entertaining way to improve speech recognition and prevent brain aging. That is why I encourage all seniors to start playing an instrument or singing, if they are not already doing so. This keeps the brain sharp, focused and young.”

She even convinced her family and friends to take up music for mental sharpness. “For example, my father started playing the erhu, a traditional Chinese instrument, after I told him about our findings. He also shared this advice with his friends, thus getting many seniors excited about music training,” Du concludes.