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Friday, May 11, 2012

Music: the Effects Play on for Seniors

“Music has charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” –William Congreve

We seniors routinely enjoy the numerous positive effects of music--it enchants, distracts, improves our moods, and helps to relieve our stress. This is true, not just of soothing music; upbeat dance music has the same effect of decreasing the stress hormone cortisol, along with increasing the level of antibodies.

Dr. Ronny Enk, who recently lead a study concerning music’s effect on the immune system says, “We think that the pleasant state that can be induced by music leads to special physiological changes which eventually lead to stress reduction or direct immune enhancement.” He is referring to the theory that music is represented in multiple parts of the brain, and accesses deeper pathways between neurons. It appears to enable stroke victims to connect their stored knowledge of words through songs, helping them to create the new connections needed for speech. Music has also been shown to help Alzheimer’s patients recall memories, and even restore cognitive function. It works the same way in all of us: when we listen to music we know, it stimulates the hippocampus which handles long-term storage in the brain. This can remind us of relevant memories we made while listening to a particular song.

Remarkable. Let the beat go on…

Laraine Jablon

Laraine Jablon, BA, MA, is a freelance writer specializing in social, health, and spiritual concerns of seniors. She lives in Nesconset, New York, and welcomes your thoughts.