Did you ever wonder why those old song that came out when you were young seem “better” than the stuff you hear now? It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that “newer music just isn’t as good!” But the truth is, it’s more complicated than that! According to both psychologists and neuroscientists, the songs you loved in your youth gain a special hold over you emotions. The evidence suggests that your brain bonds tightly with the music you listened to in childhood and adolescence, and this connection does not lessen with age. What’s more, that unbreakable bond brings with it a number of anti-aging properties; just look at folks like Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, and Paul McCartney for the proof!
When you listen to, or even play, music, especially from your youth, your brain becomes more engaged, and can stave off some of the aging process.
Music’s Impact on the Brain
In a study at Johns Hopkins, researchers looked specifically at how music impacts the brain of both a listener and a performer. In the study, rappers and jazz musicians were asked to improvise songs while inside a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) machine. Researchers observed their brain as they performed. According to one of the researchers, “Music is structural, mathematical and architectural. It is based on relationships between one note and the next. You may not be aware of it, but the brain has to do a lot of computing to make sense of it.”
The findings of this study supported other, similar research that suggest music can provide a number of anti-aging health benefits, including reduced pain, anxiety, and blood pressure, as well as improvements in quality of sleep, memory, mental alertness, and mood.
Another study conducted at the University of Florida, featuring neuroscientists and a world-renowned violinist, found a significant connection between music and behaviour and brain function. In fact, this study found that music can have a significant role in improved cognitive and motor skills, stress, symptoms of depression, spatial-temporal learning, and even neurogenesis; the growth of new brain tissue.
This study also found that as a person listens to music, certain parts of the brain are activated. This includes some interesting brain regions, for example: the frontal lobe, used for planning and decision making; the temporal lobe, which processes what we hear; Wernicke’s area, which is responsible for comprehension; the amygdala, which triggers our emotions; as well as other significant areas of the brain.
This study’s last finding of also of interest, if for different reasons. It had been widely believed that only classical music could stimulate the brain, but these researchers insists any music will do; it simply depends on the individual’s background and preferences.
Anti-Aging Powers: How Music Makes Your Feel Younger
Relive Your Younger Years
For nearly 40 years, Harvard Professor of Psychology Dr. Ellen J. Langer has conducted her “counterclockwise” experiment. The goal has always been to answer the question: can we physically revert ourselves if the psychological clock was turned back.
In her earliest experiments, Dr. Langer showed that reliving experiences from youth can improve overall physical well-being. In 1979, she invited several senior men to relive a week as if it was 1959. This was achieved by confining them, together, in a building mocked up to look as it did at that time. The participants discussed “current” events, watched old TV shows on a black and white set, and listened to era-appropriate music. At the end of the week-long experiment, each of the men saw anti-aging effect; improved vision, hearing, memory, and physical strength.
While Dr. Langer sequestered these men away for the experiment, evidence suggests that may not be necessary to reap the benefits. Rather, as music was one of the more important cultural cues, it is thought the results can be replicated simply by listening to your favourite music from your youth.
Improved Energy, Alertness, and Emotion
Another study, performed in Zurich Switzerland, found another anti-aging benefit from music. The researchers there found music was associated with increased blood flow to the upper extremities. This includes the head and brain, particularly in the areas connected to emotional generation and control.
In other words, music activated the part of the brain which stimulates functions like emotion, attention, memory, and more.
Replicate Brain Chemicals From Your Past
When you hear a song from your past, it stimulates the auditory cortex. This helps you understand the rhythms, harmonies, and melodies you hear. Next, the premotor cortex is activated; this gets you dancing and singing along. As you make closer attention to the instruments and lyrics, the parietal cortex fries. Next, the prefrontal cortex is activated, and memories associated with the song are triggered.
Memories brought on by music are fueled by the emotions that come from the song. Studies have even shown that certain songs can stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers. This, in turns, produces neurochemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin that make you feel good! The more you are drawn to a particular type of music, the more of those neurochemicals are produced. And with more of the neurochemicals flowing through your blood, the younger you feel!
What is the Best Anti-Aging Music?
While it has long been held that classical music, Mozart in particular, that best best anti-aging properties, new findings suggest that’s not so. Rather, the best music to reap these anti-aging benefits is whatever kind you like best! It doesn’t matter if it’s rock, jazz, hip-hop, or classical; all genres have the potential to help you roll back the years and feel and act young again!
Are you looking to continue, or even start, reaping the many benefits of music later in life? Check out our Seniors Music Program, as well as our wide variety of other lessons, and sign up today! It’s never too late to start feeling young again!