Music training: Lifelong investment to protect the brain from aging and hearing loss

Nina Kraus*, Travis White-Schwoch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Age-related declines in the auditory system contribute strongly to older adults' communication difficulties, especially understanding speech in noisy environments. With the aging population growing rapidly there is an expanding need to discover means to offset or remediate these declines. Music training has emerged as a potential tool to set up the brain for healthy aging. Due to the overlap between neural circuits dedicated to speech and music, and the strong engagement of cognitive, sensorimotor, and reward circuits during music making, music training is thought to be a strong driver of neural plasticity. Comparisons of musicians and non-musicians across the lifespan have revealed that musicians have stronger neural processing of speech across timescales, ranging from the sentence and word level to consonant features on a millisecond level. These advantages are also present in older adult musicians, and they generalise to advantages in memory, attention, speed of processing, and understanding speech in noise. Excitingly, even older adult musicians with hearing loss maintain these neurophysiological and behavioural advantages, outperforming non-musicians with normal hearing on many auditory tasks. Delineating the neurophysiological and behavioural advantages associated with music experience in older adults, both with normal hearing and hearing loss, can inform the development of auditory training strategies to mitigate age-related declines in neural processing. These prospective enhancements can provide viable strategies to mitigate older adults' challenges with everyday communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-123
Number of pages7
JournalAcoustics Australia
Volume42
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

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