The Powerful Influence of Music on Health

Scientists have found some the strongest evidence yet that musical training in younger years can prevent the decay in speech listening skills in later life. Musicianship in early life is associated with pervasive changes in brain function and enhanced speech-language skills. Recent research results indicate these neuroplastic benefits extend to older individuals, who are more susceptible to cognitive decline.

Gavin Bidelman, who led the study as a post-doctoral fellow at the Rotman Research Institute (RRI) at Baycrest Health Sciences and is now an assistant professor at the University of Memphis, said:

Musical activities are an engaging form of cognitive brain training and we are now seeing robust evidence of brain plasticity from musical training not just in younger brains, but in older brains too.”

Older adults who had musical training in their youth were 20% faster in identifying speech sounds than their non-musician peers were on speech identification tests. The brain-behavior response was two to three times better in the older musicians compared to non-musicians peers. In other words, older musicians’ brains provide a much more detailed, clean and accurate depiction of the speech signal. The latest findings add to mounting evidence that musical training not only gives young developing brains a cognitive boost, but those neural enhancements extend across the lifespan into old age when the brain needs it most to counteract cognitive decline. The findings also underscore the importance of music instruction in schools and in rehabilitative programs for older adults.

In an another study published earlier this year, it was shown that musical training results in a rapid change in the cognitive mechanisms utilized for music perception and these shared mechanisms are usually employed for language. This suggests that the areas responsible for music and language share common brain pathways. Further study in neurophysiological processing will provide additional clues into the complex functioning of the human brain in the future.

If these studies are accurate, it may follow that music therapy and/or music training may have a positive influence on addicts in recovery, helping to fire and rewire the brain in positive ways. For now, consider taking some time for making music and possibly helping your health regardless of your age.