The Benefits of Music on Cognitive Aging

Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.

Plato

Learning offers the excitement of novelty, the mystery of the journey, and the sense of accomplishment after achieving the goal. It creates opportunities to broaden perspectives, to think from angles one hadn’t before, and maybe gain a set of skills along the way.

Interestingly, learning has a positive effect on the brain as well. Every time the brain acquires new information, it is rewired to accommodate it, an ability known as “neuroplasticity”. This is especially important with age, as the brain reorganizes and restructures itself with advancing years. Contrary to the fact that youth and learning are synonymous, delving into a new challenge allows the brain to evolve in response to interesting life experiences.

Learning musical instruments involves both motor and cognitive functions and is especially recommended throughout one’s life. It lends itself to creating a joyous atmosphere of music that benefits mental, social, and emotional health. Did you know that learning music at any age can be beneficial for improving one’s memory? As one grows older, the hippocampus- the part of the brain responsible for memory- begins to shrink, and practicing the piano, the guitar, or the violin improves one’s listening, retention, and recollection skills. ‘Music cognition’ an area of study in Psychology, charts quantitative benefits in areas of memory, language comprehension, fluency, visual and spatial awareness, and more.

Those with higher involvement in music and continued practice with an instrument of choice develop a higher cognitive ability and experience a happier quality of life and well-being.

The science behind rehearsing music lessons is that the nerves in our brain are enclosed by a sheath called “myelin”, which is very important to transmit electrical impulses along nerve fibers. With advancing years, myelin tends to shrink, weakening the connections between the nerves and leading to neurological impairment. Repeated musical lessons cause the myelin sheath to grow, insulate the nerves, and prevent them from losing information – hence better memory!

Any kind of learning demands focus. The concentration needed to master a musical instrument greatly benefits memory. In fact, it is well documented that listening to, singing, or playing an instrument trigger the release of a chemical called dopamine from our brain, which causes feelings of joy and relaxes the body. With its therapeutic effects, increasing brain neuroplasticity, and creating emotional harmony, the benefits of music keep you sharp, relaxed, and psychologically well.

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