By Nicole McCray
Music is a powerful tool that helps build upon our cognitive development and improve areas of the brain. You may have heard about the benefits of music for children and how it can help their growth through understanding language, reading and writing, and advancing academic skills. But music can also provide benefits to help improve brain function and cognition at any age, not just while you’re young.
Aging is a challenge for any adult. Finding ways to intervene in the process and delay the onset of cognitive issues is always on the rise. Threats to your brain’s decline, including dementia, Alzheimer’s, and mental depression, can be exacerbated as you get older. Many people have trouble understanding new concepts and losing their memories, too.
But can music genuinely help? Music, more specifically in music performance, engages your brain to help you learn to read more efficiently, develop social skills, and tap into your emotions.
There is also a lot of evidence that suggests music has multiple benefits for our brains at any age. Let’s explore the world of cognitive growth and how music plays an integral role.
Music and the Brain
Researchers have long studied the effect of music on our brains and how changes in activity patterns are affected. MIT scientists specifically have found neural pathways that react exclusively to the sound of music.
So, the same set of neurons reacts to music every single time, ensuring that music promotes those cells to activate those specific brain cells. There is an area within every person’s brain, no matter what age, that is mapped closely in a way to understand music.
Music has also been shown to facilitate help in learning and enhancing skills, which is more noticeably apparent in children. However, two areas associated explicitly with cognitive recognition in music are helpful for adults. They include the effect that music has on your memory and mood.
Music and Memory
There is growing evidence that listening and performing music reactivates areas within the brain that are associated with your memory. But it’s more than just that – the music helps develop the areas of reasoning and logic and speech.
These particular areas are why children who practice music or receive music theory at a young age have a noticeably extensive vocabulary and advance in academics closely related to reading. The music works on regions of the brain that are essential for executive function and processing.
There were two studies performed in the United States and Japan. Both studies found that music can ignite stored memories within the brain and that it also helps to lay the foundation for new memories to be made as well. Healthy older adults scored higher on memory tests after classes involving music.
Listening to music improves cognitive skills in adults, including fluency and memory. Older adults with moderate or mild dementia have found that music sparks those sensory systems and mental processes. Playing an instrument provides a person with a superior cognitive memory, spatial ability, and processing speed.
Adults who can remember something as simple as the positioning of a guitar pick can help bring stored memories to the present, unlocking a part of the brain that hasn’t been reached. Therefore, it plays a key role in helping to digress the onset of these cognitive disorders.
Music and Mood
The benefits that music can provide are endless. One of the most significant health advantages that music offers a person at any age is the ability to boost the brain’s production of the dopamine hormone. The increased production helps to provide people with relief from stress, anxiety, and even depression.
Music’s power to influence thoughts and feelings helps to promote improved emotional health. With mental health illness being more prominent in young and older adults, music therapy is a method that has even been helpful in aiding patients suffering from schizophrenia or similar disorders.
Other Helpful Benefits of Music
Music provides numerous other advantages to your well-being, and it doesn’t matter how old you are. Some of those benefits are astounding and include the following:
- Improving performance on cognitive tasks – if you listen to music while focused on another activity, you may find that you are more productive and efficient at finishing your job at hand. Likewise, it can help motivate you when doing something, such as exercise. Runners can run faster, and synchronizing body movements can increase your stamina.
- Managing pain – the effect music has on pain is pretty incredible. One study showed that the effect of music helps to control pain in fibromyalgia patients.
- Sleep better – listening to a specific type of relaxing and calming music that puts you in the right mood for sleep can improve your sleep without needing any medication. A study found that music improved sleep quality in students over audiobooks.
- Reasoning – music patterns and tapping into your memory help to improve other areas of the body, such as fine motor skills and critical thinking ability. The left side of your brain is geared toward spatial reasoning, which becomes enhanced due to music.
Improve Your Cognitive Growth With Music
It’s essential to see how much music can impact areas in your life. No matter how old you are or how your brain is dealing with aging, music brings about an enriching ability to develop and improve your brain’s capabilities. There are so many massive benefits from being musical and having music in your life that still haven’t been figured out yet.
Emotional development can open doors for you to be more socially adaptable, strengthen empathy and even help you be more creative and convey an important message. Music also has a personal aspect, allowing you to learn more about yourself and your personality.
The way you think and express yourself can be further demonstrated by music. And the cognitive benefits are apparent – improved memory, mood, performance, and even pain management can all be aided by music.