Many caregivers find that listening to music is an integral part of senior care because it helps older adults emotionally, physically, spiritually and intellectually.
Now, a recent study has provided biological evidence that lifelong musical practice has an advantage when it comes to the aging brain.
Age-related delays in neural timing, or the automatic brain responses to speech sounds, are less severe in musicians than in non-musicians, researchers from Northwestern University found. In the study, researchers looked at the automatic brain responses of older and younger musicians to speech sounds, and found that older musicians had a distinct advantage.
“The older musicians not only outperformed their older non-musician counterparts, they encoded the sound stimuli as quickly and accurately as the younger non-musicians,” said Northwestern neuroscientist Nina Kraus. “This reinforces the idea that how we actively experience sound over the course of our lives has a profound effect on how our nervous system functions.”
Even non-musicians can benefit from melodies, though. Music is frequently used in Alzheimer’s care and other senior living settings to encourage positive behaviors or moods, AnnArbor.com reports.