Music helps kids remember basic facts such as the order of letters in the alphabet, partly because songs tap into fundamental systems in our brains that are sensitive to melody and beat. That’s not all: when you play music, you are exercising your brain in a unique way. “I think there’s enough evidence to say that musical experience, musical exposure, musical training, all of those things change your brain,” says Dr. Charles Limb, associate professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins University. “It allows you to think in a way that you used to not think, and it also trains a lot of other cognitive facilities that have nothing to do with music.”
Music with a beat seems to help people with motor disorders such as Parkinson’s disease walk better than in the absence of music — patients actually synchronize their movements to a beat, Patel said. There’s also some evidence to suggest that music can help Alzheimer’s patients remember things better, and that learning new skills such as musical instruments might even stave off dementia.
“That’s a pretty amazing thing that, from sound, you can stimulate the entire brain,” Limb said. “If you think about dementia as the opposite trend, of the brain atrophying, I think there’s a lot of basis to it.”
Here’s one way you might not already be using music: Making a deliberate effort to use music to alter mood. Listen to something that makes you energetic at the beginning of the day, and listen to a soothing song after an argument, Levitin says.
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