Music Issue Specialists
The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) convened a diverse panel of experts to examine the latest evidence on how music influences brain health. Following a lively discussion moderated by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the GCBH experts agreed that engaging in music has the powerful potential to support brain health. The culmination of the group’s efforts is this report and its recommendations for older adults. In a real-life inspirational story, AARP The Magazine illustrated how music has helped keep beloved singer Tony Bennett grounded and engaged during his journey with Alzheimer’s over the past four years.
“We know that music is a powerful stimulator of the brain. It has the potential to be a critical tool to preserve and enhance brain health. For now, let's stop for a moment and listen to the music,” said Jacobo Mintzer, M.D., Executive Director of the Roper Saint Francis Research and Innovation Center and Governance Committee lead for this report.
The GCBH issue experts were able to reach 13 points of consensus around music and healthy aging and 5 for treatment of disease or injuries causing cognitive impairment over the next several months as the report developed. Although more research is needed, the GCBH issue experts have concluded that listening and making music holds significant potential to support brain health as people age. The GCBH has adopted 10 recommendations for individuals to incorporate music into their lives to promote mental well-being, increase social connection, and stimulate thinking skills. These recommendations as well as practical tips are provided in the final report and were approved by the GCBH Governance Committee in June 2020. Liaisons from numerous civic and nonprofit organizations with expertise in music and brain health reviewed drafts and helped refine the report. The result is a cache of helpful information for adults 50+, health care providers, and supportive communities and family members.
Among the report’s recommendations is to dance, sing or move to music – these activities not only provide physical exercise but can relieve stress and are fun ways to socialize with friends and family, and can be adapted to be done virtually even if you can’t physically be together. Although listening to music that you know and like tends to cause the strongest response in the brain, try listening to new music to engage your brain. Personalized play lists you can put together for yourself or loved ones by using music apps on computers or smart phones are good options, and these apps may suggest other new music you might be interested in. If you notice you are having trouble hearing, don’t delay getting your hearing checked. Also try making music yourself by learning to play a musical instrument, though singing may be the simplest way to get started (if you aren’t already singing in the shower!)
To complement the GCBH’s report, AARP surveyed 3,185 American adults age 18 and older about their attitudes and engagement in music-related activities and their self-perceptions of brain health. The survey found that adults who engage in music making and listening are more likely to self-report their overall health, brain health, and cognitive function as excellent or very good. While the survey can’t establish cause and effect, the survey shows that music is a very popular leisure activity that is engaging to many people of all ages with promising potential for brain health benefits. Full survey results can be found in the sidebar.