These 2 Brain Boosting Activities Can Preserve Your Memory
Learning to play a musical instrument or speaking in another language trains your brain to be more efficient, according to a new study. Researchers found musicians and people who are bilingual use fewer brain resources when working on a memory task.
“These findings show that musicians and bilinguals require less effort to perform the same task, which could also protect them against cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia,” said Dr. Claude Alain, first author of the paper and senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute. “Our results also demonstrated that a person’s experiences, whether it’s learning how to play a musical instrument or another language, can shape how the brain functions and which networks are used.”
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Scientists have long known that musicians and bilinguals have a better working memory, which involves the ability to do mental math, as well as remember phone numbers or a list of instructions. However, until now, they haven’t understood why these people appear to have a cognitive advantage. The new study is the first to use brain imaging to gain insight into the factors that may play a role.
Musicians and Bilinguals Performed Better on Cognitive Tests
Researchers looked at the brains of 41 participants between the ages of 19 and 35 who belonged in one of three categories: English-speaking non-musicians, bilinguals who didn’t play an instrument and musicians who only spoke English. The individuals underwent brain scans while they completed tasks that tested sound memory and the ability to identify the direction of sound sources.
Musicians had faster sound memory, while both musicians and bilinguals performed better on the location test. Although the sound memory of bilinguals was similar to that of English-speaking non-musicians, they showed less brain activity in performing the task.
“People who speak two languages may take longer to process sounds since the information is run through two language libraries rather than just one,” says Dr. Alain, who is also an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Medical Science and the Department of Psychology. “During this task, the brains of bilinguals showed greater signs of activation in areas that are known for speech comprehension, supporting this theory.”
In the next phase of the experiment, the authors will explore the effects of music and art training on brain function. The study was published in the journal Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Research Provides Formula for Preserving Mental Function
The findings are consistent with earlier research that points to the value of an array of activities in helping prevent mental decline. One such study was a 2015 investigation published in the journal Neurology that found engaging in arts and crafts may greatly reduce the risk of memory and cognitive problems. Other studies have led the Alzheimer’s Society to recommend regularly challenging the mind, which can be done in numerous ways such as working crossword puzzles or studying for a course for fun.
Yet staying active mentally is only part of the key to preserving mental function. Research also shows the cognitive benefits of staying physically and socially active, along with following a healthful lifestyle that includes eating a nutritious diet and abstaining from smoking and excess alcohol consumption.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.