Music Performance and Cognitive Function

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Please check out my original post at:

http://xactmind.com/xc/articles/music-performance-and-cognitive-function/

By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro

Play For Your Brain

Not all of us are able to play musical instruments well, but the challenge of learning to play one can be a fun hobby. Recent research suggests that people who play a musical instrument regularly, even if they aren’t musically gifted per se, are reinforcing their brain’s function at the same time.

Musical training is thought to increase neural connections in the brain which are associated with decision making, complex memory, and creativity. Musical education can even boost cognitive function in people who have suffered from strokes, and equip the brain to adapt by using intact brain regions.

Musical Brains

Numerous studies have proven that the brains of musicians differ functionally and structurally from the brains of non-musicians. Skilled musicians are like athletes, because they need to coordinate multiple senses, and focus on complex elements like melody and tempo, while performing a piece.

There is also research which suggests that the areas used in musical performance are closely linked with other important cognitive functions. One study by Schaug discovered that musical disorders such as tone deafness affect about 4 to 10 percent of the population, which is the same percentage range seen with disabilities such as dyslexia and dyscalculia (math difficulties).

Another study, performed by Wang, examined the brains of 48 young adults who had studied music for at least one year between the ages of 3 and 15. The subjects who had begun musical training before the age of 7 had greater development in the areas of the brain associated with language and executive function.

Learn a Foreign Tongue To Protect Your Brain

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Please read my original post at:

http://xactmind.com/xc/articles/learn-a-foreign-tongue-to-protect-your-brain/

By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro

Bilingual Brains

Numerous research studies have revealed that people who speak two or more languages possess greater skill in multitasking and paying attention than those who only speak one language. In addition, a 2013 study discovered that individuals who spoke two languages developed the signs of dementia more than four years later than people who only spoke one language, which strongly suggests that being bilingual may help to delay the onset of dementia.

Never Too Late

Scientists have determined that the earlier one learns a second language, the greater the protective benefits against dementia, but it is never too late to learn a foreign tongue, even if you only learn a bit of the language. Be ready for a challenge, though, because most aspects of learning a foreign language later in life will be more difficult.

One clear benefit which older individuals have over youngsters when learning a foreign language is that they have much larger vocabularies which are often as large as those of native speakers. However, the challenges which exist for older people learning a foreign tongue are numerous. First of all, phonemes, or sounds, of a language are very easily picked up by children, but are much more difficult for adults to learn. Secondly, adults automatically hear a foreign language through the filter of their native language, which is not the case in toddlers. As a result, the older learner may have issues with pronunciation.

A toddler’s brain has about fifty percent more neuron connections than an adult brain. The extra connections are a safeguard against potential early trauma, but are also critical for early language acquisition. After a child reaches six years of age, adaptability declines as a result of the brain’s need to acquire other skills during development. This adaptability, also known as neuroplasticity, continues to plummet throughout the years, making it more difficult to obtain new language skills.

Several studies have suggested that learning a foreign language later in life can delay age-related cognitive decline, as well as delay the onset of dementia. In addition, the mental challenge of learning a new language during later years improves executive function, which is important for mental flexibility.