Music is often referred to as the universal language. Though tastes vary greatly, most people enjoy listening to their favourite tunes on a regular basis – whether it’s in your car, during a cardio session or to kick-start your morning. Despite this global connection, new studies are still exploring the benefits gained from listening to music and/or participating in musical training. There is strong evidence to suggest that music has the potential to develop language skills, maintain brain functionality, and protect us from neurodegeneration.
Music Lessons Improve Speech through the Years
As we age, our bodies and our brain change. Speech comprehension, something crucial to everyday function, becomes increasingly difficult as the decades pass. However, musical training earlier in life may play a role in preventing this natural decline. In a study led by the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences, it was found that older adults who had musical training at some point in their lives identified speech sounds 20% faster than their peers who hadn’t been previously exposed to such training. Cognitive brain training, like musical activities, can also increase neuroplasticity which is incredibly important as we continue to age. While it was believed that our brains remain the same after a certain period of time, recent research has shown this to be untrue. Over time, behaviours, thought processes, emotions and changes in our environment can still alter the pathways in our brains. This increase in neuroplasticity through musical training can be incredibly beneficial to both emotional and mental well-being in older adults. In other words, those piano lessons that we so dreaded when we were younger will certain pay off in the long run.
Train Your Brain Like You Would Train Your Body
Further strengthening the connection between music training and language skills development are the results from a study conducted at the Northwestern University. In this study, 40 students were tested when entering high school and again three years later. During these three years, a group of students participated in music lessons while the control group of students participated in fitness training. Though both groups showed development in language skills connected to sound processing, the group of students that participated in musical training showed a higher level of development. This suggests that these students have the potential to improve their language skills and increase brain development. Not to discount those personal training sessions – but imagine if you could incorporate both? Your brain would certainly thank you for it.
Activating Genes for Better Brain Function
A Finnish study group explored the link between listening to classical music and the regulation of genes in both musically experienced and inexperienced participants. What the group discovered was that listening to classical music activated and up-regulated the genes that are involved in learning and memory, the emission and transference of dopamine, and synaptic function. At the same time, genes responsible for neurodegeneration were down-regulated. Simply listening to classical music can help create and maintain neural processes – in other words, brain power.