The Brain and Music

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Music and the Brain: Fountain of Youth?

May 6th, 2015 · No Comments · music and alzheimer, music and the brain

There is so much wonderful information out there today about the brain and how you can stay young and even reverse aging by using your brain for new tasks, such as foreign language learning, taking up a new musical instrument, or taking new pathways around your town or just your house.  Experts tell us that something as simple as brushing your teeth or hair with the non-dominant hand, can create new neural pathways that are fresh and viable!  Wow!  I remember hearing a professor say that at night you should try not turning on the lights, and finding your way around your house, just by feel and sensory clues other than vision.

Music has so many applications for keeping the brain young.  A piano teacher of mine once said that if your really know your music, you should be able to go to the piano in the dark and play your pieces with no light on at all!  That was a radical idea to me, but I tried it!  With no visual cues it is considerably harder, but a good way to test how well you know that music.

Of course we know that many blind pianists, who were born blind or who lost their vision at an early age, like Ray Charles, developed their ears and their sense of touch so powerfully that they played as well as sighted pianists.  So…the brain really is an amazing organ, probably still far more powerful than we realize today.

When I was working with patients with Alzheimer’s disease many years ago, I was constantly amazed at the way they could remember songs and words to songs, when they couldn’t tell you their own name or recognize family members and friends.  Alzheimer’s is such a cruel and tragic disease, but music is a powerful intervention that can often be quite effective, right up until the end of their life!  There are so many videos on YouTube that show music therapists working with Alzheimer’s patients and if you haven’t seen them, you should really take a look.

As for the Baby Boomers, I really believe we should listen to our popular “oldies” from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.  I know that for me, it brings back floods of memories in a way that is 99% pleasurable and loads of fun, and free!!  Recently I was reminiscing about how I used to race home from school to watch “American Bandstand” and how badly I wanted to be on the show.  My mother said that I could be on it for my 15th birthday, but then, when that came around, she discovered it was broadcast from Philadelphia!  We lived in S.C., so it wasn’t going to happen.  Despite that, I still have fond memories of Dick Clark, American Bandstand, and all of the songs that made my youth happy and can do it for me even today!!  I believe that music can definitely be a source of the Fountain of Youth!

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