Society is obsessed with youth — so much so that one of the largest technology companies in the world, Google, recently acquired a new company, called Calico, devoted to tackling the issues of aging.
But can science really turn back the clock’s hands, or is humanity still searching for Herodotus’ magical “waters of life”?
One key to re-connecting with our youth may be closer than it seems. A series of recent studies lend credence to the idea that music could be the next best thing to finding the real “Fountain of Youth.”
Here are 5 incredible ways music helps us stay young and healthy:
Improves immunity: Listening to upbeat music for less than an hour is enough to decrease immunity-suppressing stress hormones and increase the number of antibodies in the blood, according to a study conducted by Sussex University and the Max Planck Institute. Researchers only tested the effects of lively music, and theorize that personal preferences and exposure to other genres might impact an individual’s response; “We’d expect that different kinds of music might show different physiological and immunological effects,” says Ronny Enk, study author and neurocognition expert at Max Planck. “Not only the music itself is important but probably the personal appraisal of the listener will also be important.”
Combats cognitive decline: McGill University researchers found that the human brain releases dopamine—a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of reward and pleasure, and facilitates the creation of long-term memories—both during, and in anticipation of, jamming out to good tunes. Natural decreases in the number of dopamine-producing cells is thought to contribute to age-related decline in memory and cognition. But studies have shown that artificially increasing the supply of dopamine in an elderly individual’s brain can help them form stronger memories.
Keeps depression at bay: People with major depressive order age faster than their non-depressed counterparts. But a review of 17 different studies on music and depression led analysts from the National University of Singapore to conclude that jamming out just once a week may reduce symptoms of depression.
Beefs up the brain‘s circuits: Individuals exposed to even a minor amount of musical training in their youth may derive benefit years later, according to Northwestern University researchers who found that even individuals who hadn’t touched an instrument in decades were able to process sounds faster than those who’d never played a tune. Hearing troubles are one of the most prevalent problems of aging, but study authors believe that music training could be the key to helping older adults hold onto their hearing for longer.
Enlivens those with Alzheimer‘s: Alzheimer’s is one of the most feared diseases of aging. Individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia face the gradual erosion of their mental abilities. But recent research from George Mason University indicates that singing along—not just listening—to hits from classical movies, such as The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music and Oklahoma, may increase cognitive functioning in Alzheimer’s patients. The positive effects were especially profound in those in the moderate to severe stages of the disease. The power of music to help people with Alzheimer’s has long been acknowledged. Check out the video above that shows how a simple song can make all the difference in the world to someone with Alzheimer’s.
Music won’t reverse all the ravages of aging, nor can it stave off deadly disease, but it can dampen the effects of the encroaching years, and has an innate power to uplift and inspire that should not be ignored.
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By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor