It’s Time To Pick Up The Flugelhorn & Join Your Local Jazz Band!:
So except for Juggalos, I think many of us want to improve as time goes by and to retain as much of our capabilities as possible.
Faygo and face-paint are mercifully off-the-menu for most upright-walking mammals. -Except Lemurs.
So to do this, there are nutritional components, supplements, and others, with of-course physical exercise being the 800 pound gorilla in the room.
But are there other things we could do to keep our marbles, like sudoku, cross-words, or social-networking?
Or is dopamine-driven curiosity the key?
Well, researchers from China are finding some very interesting quirks about an old human activity that might help, too…
The Short Answer:
- We all want to keep as much of our brainpower as we get older.
- But brain-training games like the ones on Lumosity may not help.
- The jury is still kind-of out on them.
- So what can we do for brain exercise besides the standard stuff?
- Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences checked in to it.
- They found that people with musical training retain several kinds of brain fitness longer than those who don’t play music.
- They hang on to abilities much longer, and control different circuits in the brain much more.
- The great part of this lies in another study.
- That one showed that even non-musicians who were between 60-90 could still improve their memory by doing musical improvisation.
- Other studies have shown music is a workout for your “working memory”.
- Other work suggests that if you even listen to music that’s different for you, that may help too.
- The potential of puzzles to help may be unsure, but playing music does help your brain stay strong.
Read on to find out the details…
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Is Cardio And Fish Oil All We Really Have?:
This is especially helpful, because as much as SCIENCE has said recently,
“What’s good for the heart is good for the brain.”
There should be something else we can do to exercise it besides cardio.
Unfortunately for that idea, there has been no small amount of shade thrown recently at brain training, with many allegations being that they don’t work.
Some accusing the studies of just improvement at the game by practice, but not actual cognitive improvement that can be measured elsewhere.
Could Granny and all her crosswords actually be wrong?
Well, there are some tantalizing clues that what really counts is practice, driven by the will to do it, over long periods of time.
Brain Throwdown! Codgers Versus Whipper-Snappers, FIGHT!:
To that end, researchers at The Chinese Academy of Sciences tested 75 people for abilities related to musical training.
1/3 were older musicians, 1/3 older non-musicians and the rest young non-musicians.
Somehow over time, musicians who were about 65 years-old had abilities as good as 23 year-olds at distinguishing specific sounds from a mix of others.
They weren’t as good at low sound-levels, but as soon as the volume was turned up a bit, they matched the younger non-musicians, with a few members even doing better.
The older non-musicians who were also about 65 years-old did much worse, with an average accuracy rating of 15% less than the older-musicians.
They also had a much wider range of scores that trended lower.
By contrast, older musicians all had tight groups of scores right around +/- 5-7% from the average, so a big percent of that group were very consistent.
Music Practice Tunes, Strengthens, & Switches Brain Circuits:
These results were also verified with brain-scans.
It turns out the years of practice have a great effect on the Executive-Control Network.
In the smallest sense, it gives musicians greater short-term focus & goal-setting ability in a region of the brain known for coordinating several others.
Also weirdly, musicians were able to increase this focus by noticeably shutting-down the Default Mode (or “Daydreaming”) Network of the brain while they worked.
Pretty impressive for some old geezers, eh? Well it gets even better.
The Pervasive Power Of Frequency-Structures:
Because as “Smartest Bass Player In The World”, Adam Neely might tell you,
Music is the process of turning frequency into art.
But another study shows that you don’t have to be a musician to benefit.
You might not have to be young, either.
Veronika Diaz Abrahan’s team in Argentina did some music-training studies across about 130 older adults, aged between the heights of 60 and 90.
What they found was first what you’d expect. The 50-ish musicians with more than 5 years of training did better on all the tests.
Also strangely, the non-musicians didn’t do as well on cognitive tests after they were asked to do exercises of just repeating a musical phrase on a simple instrument.
Music Practice For Civilians Takes An Unexpected Turn:
However, then something really weird happened.
(before that, I’d just like to apologize for saying anything that might seem complimentary to Jazz.)
The group of subjects that was asked to Improvise anything at-all over a backing rhythm track did much better.
It didn’t matter which of two tests they took (Rey Complex Figure or International Affective Picture System).
The memory-function of normal people was significantly-better after undergoing just a 3 minute exercise, even when measured 1 week later!
So even though music could be a form of society, it also seems to create and strengthen structures wherever it is.
Even in the brain of a 90 year-old non-musician!
Don’t Give Up On Musical Training, Because The Benefits Are Manifold:
Now if we revisit one of the earlier works on it to make a prediction,
You could probably guess that -any- amount of musical training is going to give the brain a workout that isn’t as easily dismissed as the ones on Lumosity.
Furthermore, there are some other discussions out there suggesting that just -listening- to music that is new & different from what you know might help also.
So it’s never too late to get your brain some exercise in addition to that 30 minutes of cardio you should be doing every day.
You just have to do the right kind!
JUMP BONUS! Adam Neely Blows Our Minds And Proves Rhythm Is Melody Is Harmony:
References & Links:
• Source: CAS
• Source Studies:
• SciAdv. – Successful aging of musicians: Preservation of sensorimotor regions aids audiovisual speech-in-noise perception
• FrontPsy – Cognitive Benefits From a Musical Activity in Older Adults
• EarHear – Musical Experience Offsets Age-Related Decline in Understanding Speech-in-Noise: Type of Training Does Not Matter, Working Memory Is the Key
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