Don’t play an instrument? No problem! Even listening to music prevents dementia
APRIL 18, 2023
GENEVA, Switzerland — As we age, cognitive decline is more likely to develop. So, how can we train our brain to fight it? Researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), HES-SO Geneva, and EPFL say the answer may be hiding in music. Their study finds that both listening and learning to play music could prevent a decline in brain health.
Leading up to cognitive decline, the brain loses its “plasticity,” as well as gray matter, which holds the neurons that keep the brain sharp. Once this decline starts, working memory is the hardest to maintain. This type of memory includes things like recalling a phone number long enough to jot it down on paper, or language translations. The researchers studied how practicing music could combat this degradation using 132 healthy older and retired adults between the ages of 62 and 78. Importantly, all of these participants never took musical lessons for more than six months in their lifetime
‘We wanted people whose brains did not yet show any traces of plasticity linked to musical learning. Indeed, even a brief learning experience in the course of one’s life can leave imprints on the brain, which would have biased our results,’’ explains Damien Marie, first author of the study and a research associate at the CIBM Center for Biomedical Imaging, the Faculty of Medicine and the Interfaculty Center for Affective Sciences (CISA) of UNIGE, and the Geneva School of Health Sciences, in a university release.