According to a recent report from The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) and AARP, singing can significantly improve your brain health.
And part of the reason why has to do with cognitive reserve—a factor your brain needs to protect itself.
Here’s what I mean…
Your brain is always changing. Every time you learn something new, memorize a password, or even solve a crossword puzzle—your brain gets rewired a bit. This lifelong adaptation is known as neuroplasticity.
The GCBH report notes that your brain’s plasticity helps you accomplish daily cognitive tasks—everything from remembering someone’s name to weighing complex details for decision making.
This capacity is called cognitive reserve and the report notes another critical function of this important factor: It helps your brain defend itself against disease or injury.
The authors write, “The cognitive reserve provides some resistance to damage—and a degree of resilience if damage occurs, such as with Alzheimer’s disease.”
The report points out that people who exercise and challenge their brains throughout their lives “gain an edge” in creating a dependable cognitive reserve.
And one of the best and most enjoyable ways to gain that edge is by engaging in music making. But don’t worry—you don’t need a beautiful voice or any special training or ability to tap into music’s brain-healing powers.
Music strongly enhances quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients
Jim Donovan is a professional drummer, teacher, and therapeutic researcher who strongly endorses music therapy for Alzheimer’s in his Whole Body Sound Healing System protocol.
Jim highlights one remarkable study where Spanish researchers studied 42 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. They wanted to ﬁnd out if participating in music-making would help to positively aﬀect their cognitive, psychological, and behavioral functions.
Each patient participated in music therapy two times per week for six weeks. Activities included singing, tapping and clapping hands along with background music, playing small percussion instruments, and light movement.
Jim continues, “What they found was that the majority of participants had major improvements in anxiety and depression. Participants with orientation and memory issues improved regardless of dementia severity.
“Incredibly, one of the most hopeful ﬁndings is that music making reduced levels of agitation, leading to a decrease in the prescription of psychotropic drugs in those patients.”
According to the authors of the study: “Progressive cognitive impairment lowers the stress threshold. Thus, under stressful conditions, patients may display such behavioral problems as agitation or aggressiveness.
“Music therapy increases the level of tolerance to stressful environmental stimuli that may trigger such symptoms.”
Waking up your brain with music therapy is easy and effective
As the GCBH report makes clear, music making enhances brain health whether you’re young or old, and whether your brain is healthy or suffering from dementia.
And Jim strongly agrees. He says, “Actively participating in music-making, even in a simple way, helps to relieve anxiety, depression and agitation. It also helps you improve memory and motor skills.
“Also remember that the act of doing the exercise is the most important thing. Being perfect at it is much less important.”
Jim offers several demonstrations of various music-making exercises in his Whole Body Sound Healing System protocol.
For instance, in one of his Brain Revival Exercises, he demonstrates how to “wake up and build your brain” by moving your limbs to lively rhythmic music.
He says, “In the video, you’ll enjoy doing the exercise along with some special energizing drumming music I created for you. You’ll also ﬁnd multiple speeds of the exercise that will give you an easy starting point and a way to progress.”
And a reminder: You need no musical skill or talent whatsoever to participate and reap the cognitive benefits of these exercises.
“Music on Our Minds: The Rich Potential of Music to Promote Brain Health and Mental Well-Being.” Global Council on Brain Health 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.26419/pia.00103.001