Pallikkutam, The Education Observer » May
Practising and listening to music can prevent cognitive decline in healthy seniors by stimulating the production of grey matter, according to researchers at University of Geneva. They tracked the progress of 132 retired people in the age group of 62 to 78 who had never practiced music before They were enrolled in piano and music awareness training for six months.
The participants were randomly assigned to two groups, regardless of their motivation to play and instrument. The second group had active listening lessons, which focussed on instrument recognition and analysis of musical properties in a wide range of musical styles. The classes lasted one hour. Participants in both groups were required to do homework for half an hour a day.
After six-months, neuroimaging revealed an increase in grey matter in four brain regions involved in high-level cognitive functioning in all participants, including cerebellum areas involved in working memory. The scientists also found that the quality of sleep, the number of lessons followed over the course of the intervention, and the daily training quantity, had a positive impact on the degree of improvement in performance.
As people age, there is a loss of grey matter, where our precious neurons are located. This is known as 'brain atrophy'. Working memory gets reduced. Working memory is defined as a process in which we briefly retain and manipulate information in order to achieve a goal, such as remembering a telephone number long enough to write it down or translating a sentence from a foreign language.
The study revealed that music practice and active listening could prevent working memory decline. Such activities promoted brain plasticity, they were associated with grey matter volume increase.
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