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3 Ways Music Helps Heal and Protect the Brain

Updated: Jun 13

Here’s the latest science on music for brain health  


By Austin Perlmutter, MD



 

Music has long been celebrated for its profound impact on our brains. Across civilizations and cultures over the millennia, it's evoked powerful emotions and memories. Recent scientific studies show that music may play a crucial role in healing and protecting the brain. In this article, we're exploring the multifaceted ways in which music contributes to brain health, delving into its therapeutic applications and its potential to slow down neurodegenerative processes.


1.Playing an instrument may help prevent dementia


One of the more consistent themes in dementia research concerns the benefits gained from regular “stretching” of the brain. The process of challenging the brain with cognitive exercises, learning and novelty is thought to help enhance cognitive reserve, which then protects against cognitive decline. Playing a musical instrument is an excellent representation of a positively cognitively taxing activity that may have long-term benefits to brain health.


In a 2019 systematic review, the link between playing an instrument and cognitive decline and dementia was studied. After reviewing three studies, the researchers found a stunning 64% decreased risk for developing cognitive impairment or dementia in those who played an instrument, though they caution that the data is still limited on this topic. Another fascinating paper found that high school music engagement predicted better memory scores after age 65.


2. Binaural beats may enhance memory


Binaural beats (BB) are an auditory illusion that occurs when tones of different frequencies are presented to both ears at the same time. These tones are often just off from each other, and the resulting oscillation effect is that a third illusory tone is heard. Binaural beats have been studied for mood, pain and cognitive benefit. While the research isn’t conclusive, a recent meta-analysis suggests that listening to binaural beats may significantly improve memory, as well as attention. Interested to learn more? Here’s how to try it out.


  1. Find a comfortable place where you can listen to music without interruption for around 20-30 minutes

  2. Use headphones or earbuds

  3. Open a music streaming platform (you can also download them to your device) and search for “binaural beats.”

  4. ou’ll find lots of different frequencies to try, but as a place to start, the 40-Hz frequency has been linked to improved cognition.


3. Music therapy may help improve brain function


In a 2023 meta-analysis, researchers looked at the question of whether music therapy could improve cognition in patients with Alzheimer’s dementia by examining studies published across the world. Overall, they concluded that music therapy was linked to better brain function, and that the brain boost was even more apparent when people were involved in making the music themselves. Similar work has recently indicated that music therapy may help improve cognition after traumatic brain injury (TBI). The benefits of music for children’s’ cognitive skills has also been shown, but may not be as substantial. 


Personally, I love tons of different types of music, and different ways of listening. From classic rock on vinyl with coffee on a Sunday morning to deep electronic music in my headphones while working, music provides me with a mood boost and seems to help my focus. What's your favorite way to boost your brain with music? Let us know in the comments below!




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My mother had Alzheimer’s and didn’t speak, although I beleive she was instinctively alert. I compiled all her favourite music throughout her life, she sang like a bird recalling every word of every song perfectly. Wow, the power of music!

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Love it. I'm creating original music using binaural beats. Love the work of Dr. Jeffrey Thompson. He has the most most advanced technology and experience for creating binaural beat music.

Below is a video I created. Love to learn more about this music.



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Awesome Jeff!!

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Hi all! Let us know your favorite music/ways to enjoy it below!

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