Study Finds That Musicianship Preserves Cognitive Reserve

In Education

Researchers from Duke University have discovered a long-term and robust solution that reverses cognitive decline and prevents the neurological diseases of old age. Fortunately, this solution doesn’t need medication or invasive procedures. It instead utilizes music.

The team published their findings in 2021 after they evaluated the role of music in creating cognitive brain reserve. Cognitive brain reserve refers to the brain’s resistance to cognitive diseases.

The high cognitive reserve can delay illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. Scientists can measure white and gray matter in the brain to measure the levels of cognitive reserve.

The researchers used diffusion tensor imaging, an MRI technique, to evaluate white matter integrity. This is because white matter helps parts of the brain communicate. Moreover, many studies have shown that aging reduces the integrity of white matter.

Dr. Edna Andrews has studied the effect of language and music on maintaining  cognition

Fortunately, other studies have found that the loss of integrity could be delayed or reversed through complex sensory-motor activities. These include musicianship and multilingual ship.

Edna Andrews, the lead study author and cognitive neuroscientist at Duke, studied languages and the brain. A dress developed the FOCUS course: Neuroscience/ Human Language after researching the topic for years.

For the last few years, Andrews has focused on the influence of musicianship on cognition. Andrews, who was herself a composer and musician, hypothesized that it could maintain white matter integrity.

How researchers conducted the study

The researchers gathered a group of musicians aged between 20 and 67. This group made music for years and would practice for about three hours daily. The researchers calculated FA (fractional anisotropic) for some white matter tracts. White matter fiber tracts with high FA had higher integrity, indicating that the volunteers had high levels of cognitive reserve.

Past studies involving non-musicians concluded that white matter integrity reduced with age. This new study shows that musicianship help to preserve the integrity of white matter. Moreover, it shows that acquiring and maintaining music and language skills has neurological effects that can last long into the future.

Andrews now advocates for lifelong learning as taking up a new language or instrument could be beneficial to your brain.

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