Memories are one of the most precious belongings we possess. To hang on to them, there are daily steps that each of us can take. While the research varies on the importance of each of the following, most agree that some combination of these can prove helpful in maintaining brain health:
(1) Stay intellectually active/ keep learning
(2) Have hobbies
(3) Listen to pleasant music
(4) Try something new
(5) Learn another language
(6) Play an instrument
(7) Deal effectively with stress, anxiety and/or depression
(8) Get physical exercise
(9) Incorporate good nutrition/ take a cooking class
(10) Sleep well
(11) Try to do things in your head that you would rather do on paper (math, spelling, keeping lists, etc.)
(12) Engage as many senses as possible into activities
Why are these helpful? Because the brain keeps regenerating, and we have the ability to stimulate those new connections. This is an exciting new opportunity we have as until recent times, people believed that once brain cells were gone, they were gone for good.
"A recent study conducted by scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel discussed how important elderly activities are. And a long-held notion about the brain was nixed – that we were born with a certain amount of nerve cells in the brain, that they deteriorate and die, and they can’t be replaced. This has now apparently been disproved. The brain can indeed continue to renew itself, especially the hippocampus area that affects memory. This is helped with mental activity and memory exercise. The full process of how the brain does this is not entirely understood yet." (http://www.elder-one-stop.com/importance-of-elderly-activities.html)
How much can any of this help?
"Research into cognitive reserves found that the more education people had and the more their minds were occupied, the less they suffered from age-related decline. People who remain intellectually active and engage in hobbies reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by one third. All of these facts show that cognitive training — exercising your brain — protects your brain against decline in memory, concentration and information processing." (https://sharpbrains.com/blog/2006/12/25/what-is-brain-fitness/)
With our program at Instrumentalcize™ Brain & Body Fitness, of course, music is central to everything we do. So... many are curious, why does music help and how does it bring back memories?
"Music helps because it provides a rhythm and rhyme and sometimes alliteration which helps to unlock that information with cues. It is the structure of the song that helps us to remember it, as well as the melody and the images the words provoke." (http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140417-why-does-music-evoke-memories)
"The brain works through associations [which is why it's easier to memorize lyrics to a song than it is to try and remember the same words without music], so the more senses you involve, the better." (https://www.everydayhealth.com/longevity/mental-fitness/brain-exercises-for-memory.aspx)
People can have "episodic memories for events or periods in one's life with which memories of certain musical genres or specific pieces of music became bound. It is therefore expected that as a piece of music unfolds in time, it is providing cues in the form of instrument sounds (timbre), melodies, chord progressions, and lyrics that can trigger a variety of associations. In this way, a model of the piece of music may become a proxy for, or a pointer to, those thoughts, memories, and emotions that are evoked as one follows along with the music in one's mind." (https://academic.oup.com/cercor/article/19/11/2579/376624)
So, how can music be therapeutic in the Instrumentalcize™ fitness program?
(1) Just listening to music "exercises" both sides of the brain, and The Dana Foundation does a great job of explaining how...
"The ability to produce and respond to music is conventionally ascribed to the right side of the brain, but processing such musical elements as pitch, tempo, and melody engages a number of areas, including some in the left hemisphere (which appears to subserve perception of rhythm). It has even been suggested that skilled musicians use their left brain more in responding to music than do the musically naïve, and that parts of the left brain may play a key role in appreciating the emotional dimension of music." (http://www.dana.org/News/Details.aspx?id=43539)
(2) We incorporate old and new, familiar and unfamiliar pleasant music since research shows unique benefits to each. Perks of listening include: greater energy, stress relief/ emotional release, enhanced memory capacity, reduced pain, increased creativity, abstract thinking, and calming effect and a means to activate both sides of the brain.
One study showed how unfamiliar songs activated the left brain versus familiar songs activating the right brain.
"Our results, show... more left-sided engagement of frontal regions for episodic retrieval of hard-to-verbalize (nonfamiliar) melodies and clear right-sided activations with easier retrieval of familiar melodies." (https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/46303962/Semantic_and_episodic_memory_of_music_ar20160607-10826-1ahlwsi.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1516150014&Signature=W6dcDDeMjG%2BNJOofIXZty%2FwU85U%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DSemantic_and_episodic_memory_of_music_ar.pdf)
"Samson and Peretz (2005) showed that multiple presentations of melodies enhanced memory capacities in amnesic patients. Thus, repetitive exposure to new melodies could represent a fruitful approach for music therapy."
"There are promising findings indicating that the emotional valence of music can play a role in modulating pain reduction (Roy, Peretz, & Rainville, 2008). The positive emotions conveyed by familiar melodies may thus have an impact on Alzheimer's Disease by reducing feelings of distress and insecurity"
(3) The upbeat tempo and continual "newness" of our songs (changing quarterly) can help active agers stay engaged and interested. Passive activities like watching tv for too many hours have actually been shown to contribute to brain atrophy.
"Avoiding ruts and boredom is... critical... some researchers believe that people are more vulnerable to dementia when they pay less attention to the things around them." (https://www.everydayhealth.com/longevity/mental-fitness/brain-exercises-for-memory.aspx)
(4) We use instruments and sing along at times, too.
"While music listening has marked benefits regarding physiological effects of stress, playing an instrument or taking vocal lessons offers a marked increase in the benefits of music education, especially in regards to memory, language, and cognitive development." (https://funmusicco.com/how-does-music-stimulate-left-and-right-brain-function-and-why-is-this-important-in-music-teaching/)
Add all of these memory benefits to the physical benefits of taking one our classes, and there's some compelling reasons to join us today!
If you have an interest in taking a class, hosting a class at your senior living facility or becoming an instructor, please fill out the "contact us" form on our FB page or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're looking forward to creating some new memories with you!
More You Can Read on Brain Fitness/ Alzheimer's/ Dementia Research
Banging on a Drum may be more meaningful than you think!