Dr. Patricia Farrell on Medika Life

Music Enhances Mood, Boosts Memory, and Plays a Role in Aging

Music is resistant to memory being extinguished and has been found to have a role in both soothing and stimulating us, as well as being an aid in therapy.

Emotional responses, such as anxiety, are among the automatic reactions the body generates in response to particular stimuli. Emotional self-control aids in rerouting or inhibiting these spontaneous reactions. This ability to manage one’s own emotional responses, eradicate or alter their external representation, or regulate the physical and psychological experiences so produced, is known as emotional self-regulation when it pertains to the control of your own emotions. It has been discovered that music can support this attempt at self-regulation, particularly when it comes to the elderly.

Music and music-based interventions (MBI) have remarkable therapeutic potential for a variety of medical issues because they activate many brain pathways. Imaging, brain stimulation, and motion capture technologies in humans have made it possible to study the neural circuits behind the effects of MBIs on motor, affective/reward, and cognitive functions. Comparative studies using animal models have helped to show the brain circuit activities involved in rhythm perception.

In fact, music and its use are being investigated to see if they may aid in strengthening brain networks and pathways involved in sensory and motor processes, emotion, affect, and memory. We know the destructive power of stress and the hormone cortisol, especially in children, and now we are turning to the productive power of music to probe its power in the repair and maintenance of brain networks. The decline of mental acuity is directly related to how we process memories and retrieve them, so anything we can do to strengthen the bonds already made is to our benefit.

We know that music is involved in the production of essential neurotrophins in the brain called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). Most of us first encountered tropisms in biology class, where we discovered what made trees grow toward the sun or light. In humans, too, we have tropisms. These are involved in the growth, survival, and function of neurons in the central nervous system.

Individuals with dementia benefit from music in the following ways:

• Music provides a secure, non-pharmaceutical method for easing chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.
• It offers a practical, efficient substitute for mood-altering drugs.
• Decreases resistance to care and fall hazards.
• Contributes to better nutrition and swallowing.
• Promotes interaction and socializing with loved ones, friends, and coworkers.
• Offers folks who are bedridden, on ventilators, or on dialysis a purposeful activity.
• Restores participants’ calm and relaxation.
• Offers much-needed respite to family caregivers and paid caregivers.

The one thing that we know for sure is that music is readily available to all of us, wherever we are, and we should take advantage of it. No doubt about it, music can be a wonderful addition to our daily lives and, in some respects, help maintain the health of our brains. Did anyone ever think of Bruce Springsteen as a brain practitioner in addition to a musician?

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Medika Editor: Mental Health

I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

Patricia also acts in an editorial capacity for Medika's mental health articles, providing invaluable input on a wide range of mental health issues.

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