The Prescription is Music: Longevity of a Healthy Brain
By Darlene Koldenhoven, M.M.V., B.M.Ed., iLs-APP, NLP, GRAMMY®, Indie Music Hall of Fame
In February of 2020 he AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) convened a Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH)1 in Washington D.C., USA, inviting an independent collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars and policy experts from around the world who were working on brain health and cognition. What their research found was remarkable: that music in all its forms has a profound effect on keeping the brain sharp and the body actively functioning as we age. Those who were lucky enough to begin a deep exposure to music by formal music training or an abundance of music and singing in our environment prior to age 7, had an advantage in brain function that lasted a lifetime with permanent intellectual benefits. Those who started later in life also showed advances within the neuroplasticity of the brain.
With more advanced research, the scientific evidence of the advantage of music is no longer anecdotal; although much has been written or verbally passed down thousands of generations about the healing power of music as evidenced in the many books written by credentialed professionals and non-credentialed individuals on the subject. Still, much more research needs to be done and funding for such research needs to be raised, but the verdict is in and we all win with music.
Once again, singing may be the easiest and inexpensive ways to get started and one of the most beneficial ways of impacting your life with positive vibrations. Sadly, many have had the desire to sing stolen from them, sabotaged by parents, teachers, friends who just don’t understand that singing is a learned experience that takes time and practice. You get good at whatever you spend the most time at. The genetic research company, 23 and Me, has found that to a very small certain percent, the lack of ability to sing in tune is genetic. But that is no excuse not to try and I have successfully taught hundreds of pitch challenged individuals of all ages to get their ear/voice in tune. Although singing does not depend on formal training, it begins in infancy and takes action to exercise the muscles of singing, listening to yourself and others to achieve a reasonable goal in singing; not necessarily becoming a professional singer. Recently, a parent of a 12-year old girl student of mine told me several times that she did not see why her daughter (one of those in that small percent 23 and Me was referencing) had to vocalize for 20 minutes a day to learn to sing in tune in spite of me explaining all the muscular mechanisms and listening functions and audio processing time correlations within the brain necessary to achieve the goal. She actually said more than once that she did not want her daughter to do it and in front of the child, proclaimed that she never sounds good. Parental sabotage strikes again! Sadly, here I have to be careful to reign in my empathetic, championing, high horse and just do the best I can to teach and encourage that child. Some may be born with a predilection towards math, some not so much, but that doesn’t mean we don’t practice our multiplication tables growing up. Yet, not knowing your “times tables” does not create the emotional deficiency that not being able to sing does; unless you are made to recite those tables in front of the class. The more skills we have in life, the less depressed we will be. When it comes to singing, apparently it has quite a positive effect on the brain and the body and its functions. Our singing voice is the best instrument we have for our health.
The AARP study 1 found that choral singing has so many benefits. (Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put the kibosh on that for a while. Regardless, singing along to choral music helps in the mean time.) The studies of Dr. Gene Cohen and Jeanne Kelly revealed that after 9 months of singing, these older adult singers in their study group suffered fewer falls, had fewer doctor and hospital visits, took less medication and experienced less depression. Singing has benefits for both healthy aging and stroke patients. Some studies measured the amount of cytokines (protein chemical messengers in the immune system) in the blood after singing for an hour and found that singing boosts the immune system and help to regulate inflammation.
music has much value as well, stimulating many parts of the brain and promoting
connectivity in the brain, resulting in better motor control affecting speech,
walking, balance, swallowing and breathing. Music and dance are united showing
a reduction in the risk of dementia. And, it doesn’t matter what country or
culture you come from – music is universal in its healing and life enhancing
properties. Here’s where scholars can agree: music supports the well-being and
quality of life essential in benefitting brain health even if we don’t have
definite evidence it mitigates a disease itself. Music improves our moods,
lowers stress which affects activity of the autonomic nervous system, which
ramps up the immune function. Studies also found that negative feelings
undermine the immune function. So, particularly in today’s world, in addition
to taking the vitamin C, D, and Zinc in your defence arsenal, get that music
going and your inner song bird a warbling!
1 Referencing – “Music on Our Minds: The Rich Potential of Music to Promote Brain Health and Mental Well-Being” by the Global Council on Brain Health, a collaborative from AARP.
Darlene Koldenhoven, M.M.V, B.M.Ed, NLP, iLs-APP, Grammy Winner & 3-time nominee, Indie Music Hall of Fame Inductee. Recording artist with several multi-award winning, #1 New Age albums, some played in hospitals and hospices nationwide. Author, “Tune Your Voice: Singing and Your Mind’s Musical Ear.” International speaker on music education and sonic therapy. Private practice in voice and sonic therapy; in person or remotely. More info at DarleneKoldenhoven.com, ListeningMatrix.com, TuneYourVoice.net, WellnessVoiceWorkshop.com.
©2020 Darlene Koldenhoven. All rights reserved.