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by Kim Painter
Updated July 22, 2022
Turn up the radio. Sing a song. Dance around the room or pick up a guitar. Making and enjoying music can stimulate your brain, trigger memories and emotions, connect you with others and enrich your life, according to a report from the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH).
How exactly does this happen? Music engages multiple parts of the brain and helps them work together, according to the GCBH report, based on a review of scientific literature by independent experts. But you don’t have to be a scientist to recognize music’s power to move your body or surface emotions, says council member Jacobo Mintzer, a professor of health professions at the Medical University of South Carolina.
“When we listen to a tune that has a positive emotional context for us, it automatically brings up memories associated with it,” he says. Even people with dementia respond to music from their past.
“What we don’t know is if the music will stimulate memories not related to the music,” Mintzer says. “Will it also help me remember the list of what I need to get at the grocery store?” Research is ongoing.
Music-based therapies may also improve the quality of life in people with dementia, help people with Parkinson’s walk better and help stroke survivors regain speech, the report adds.
But everyone can benefit from music, says the GCBH report. Here’s how.
“Music on Our Minds: The Rich Potential of Music to Promote Brain Health and Well-Being,” Global Council on Brain Health, 2020. The Global Council on Brain Health brought together a dozen medical experts from around the world to make recommendations about brain health and music, based on evidence from clinical trials and peer-reviewed journals. Read about and download the full report.