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Music as Medicine for a Healthy Brain


Music is said to be food for the soul, but it also can help nourish the brain.

Jennifer Feuerstein, associate state director of AARP Michigan, says the recent focus in the research community on the health benefits of music has revealed positive effects on brain function. And whether it's jazz, country, or rock and roll, or polka she explains personalized music playlists can activate regions of the brain not affected by early Alzheimer's disease. "So, when people who have dementia listen to music, it actually causes them to come alive, or to awaken, because music that they're familiar with helps them to recapture some of the old memories that have been lost," she states.

A study from London specifically suggests that enjoying music performed live not only boosts happiness and well-being, but attending a concert once every two weeks could add up to nine years to a person's life. There are about 180,000 Michiganders age 65 and older affected by Alzheimer's - and while music is not a cure for the disease, Feuerstein notes it can help improve mood and even cognitive function.

Not only could listening to a live music performance benefit a person's mental health, Feuerstein says it can also help reduce the social isolation that some older adults experience. "When you go to a concert, you're with other people," she points out. "When you listen to music on the radio and you have people talking to you, there's a human element that music always brings to life. When they go to a concert with friends, people feel alive, they feel uplifted."

AARP is promoting the link between music and brain health to older adults at events around Michigan, including AARP on TAP, monthly social gatherings held at craft breweries.

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