A group of experts from Swiss and German universities worked together to do a groundbreaking clinical study that showed how music training has a huge effect on the structure and cognitive skills of older people. The study, which was published in the journal “Neuroimage: Reports,” shows a potential way to keep older people’s brains healthy.
A randomized clinical trial that took place across multiple sites included 132 healthy older people who met certain criteria, such as being retired and having not trained in music for more than six months. The experimental group learned how to play the piano, while the busy control group studied music theory but didn’t practice playing the piano.
The trial group practiced music at home five days a week and went to weekly one-hour music lessons for a year. At four different times, psychological tests, scanning methods, and blood samples were used to collect a lot of information on both groups.
The results were amazing: after the music interventions, the grey matter grew in four parts of the brain that are linked to higher cognitive processes. There was a big rise in gray matter in the cerebellum, which is a part of the brain that controls working memory. The researchers came to the conclusion that older people who had not done much music training before improved their auditory working memory and the amount of gray matter in certain parts of their brains. The good changes were linked to working hard and getting enough sleep.
The general trend of age-related brain atrophy stayed the same, even with these changes. The researchers warned against applying the results to all parts of the brain, stressing that the rise in grey matter was only seen in certain places.
The study supports previous research that shows a good link between learning music throughout life and keeping your brain healthy. The results are very important and show that music interventions could be used in policy settings for older people to stop cognitive decline and keep the brain flexible.
Cognitive loss linked to dementia is a big worry for people who are at risk, but music training may help keep them from getting it. The study stresses the importance of taking a proactive approach to brain health and supports the use of music treatments early on.
This study clearly shows that older people can keep and improve their cognitive skills, especially their working memory, by taking part in music training, whether it’s through community groups or therapeutic lessons. Music training not only makes everyday life more enjoyable, but it can also help prevent cognitive loss. This is the start of a new era in the search for cognitive well-being in older groups.