Listening to music is not a passive action. As we have already seen thanks to previous research, music can counteract anxiety and insomnia, may improve concentration and, from today, we also know that it can stimulate neuroplasticity and help fight Alzheimer's. This is what emerges from a very recent scientific research that appeared a few days ago in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease thanks to the work of a Canadian team (Fischer et al, Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, Nov 2021).
Music interacts with the emotional state and with the brain
When we listen to music, we can activate areas of our brain not connected with the auditory stimulus, with benefits for the health of the brain, of the mood and therefore of the body. But this doesn't happen with all types of music. Relaxing music, only played and not sung and the sounds of nature have been shown to promote states of calm and relaxation, counteracting anxiety and insomnia. Certain types of classical music have been shown to improve concentration. Today we are talking about that music that promotes brain neuroplasticity and helps improve cognitive function even in the early stages of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Favorite music promotes brain plasticity, the experiment
The researchers recruited 14 people, all with a diagnosis of dementia in the early stages. The volunteers were made to hear, for one hour a day for three weeks, new music without connection with their personal history or music chosen so that it contained a repertoire of well-known songs with a personal meaning. For example, including music played at the wedding or heard at a particularly significant event. Before and after these sessions, the volunteers underwent visits and nuclear magnetic resonance examinations to evaluate any changes in the structure and functionality of the brain. What emerged was that listening to new music without connection with one's personal history only activated the part of the brain responsible for processing the auditory stimulus. However, when the volunteers were made to listen to music that was meaningful to them, things changed. In fact, it was possible to observe an activation of neuronal pathways in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in recent memory and in planning and problem solving processes, and subcortical brain regions, which are the parts with an essential role in carrying out cognitive, affective and social functions. What has been observed indicates a cognitive involvement and a process of stimulation of the connectivity between neurons and therefore of neuroplasticity.
Limitations and conclusions
The study has one major limitation. In fact, it was performed on a very small population sample, only 14 volunteers. However, it is of considerable importance as the scientifically observed and measured results clearly show that one class type of music, the one that is important to our personal history, stimulates neuroplasticity. Listening to music is an action that everyone can perform, even at home. Therefore, other studies will follow to deepen these preliminary observations but which we can consider very promising for the benefits and simplicity of the treatment.