Continuing The Fight: How learning to play guitar combats Alzheimer’s

Acoustic guitar with notes

A couple weeks ago I posted about a program in New York which is dedicated to providing iPods to Alzheimer’s patients. It has been shown in study after study that music can improve cognitive function and elevate mood providing temporary relief for those suffering from the devastating disease. It has also been shown, however, that music, specifically learning how to play an instrument such as the guitar, can help to fight off the onset of Alzheimer’s altogether.

In an article posted on Aging Home Healthcare’s website, the author cites a study conducted at the University of New South Wales in Australia which claims that vigorous and regular brain stimulation may reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s by 50%. It has also been proven that regular mental stimulus and brain fitness exercises such as solving crossword puzzles, undertaking artistic endeavors, or learning how to play guitar can promote brain plasticity well into ones 80’s and 90’s.

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Learning how to play the guitar is a great way to stimulate the brain, but lessons are often expensive, frustrating, and inconvenient, eating into ones already precious time. With the Play a Tab program, however, all of these factors are negated. Inexpensive (under $7 per month), easy to follow, and convenient, Play a Tab makes it possible for beginners of any age to learn how to play the guitar at their own pace and at anytime.

While we are exceptionally proud to offer such a program that will be partially responsible for bringing up the next generation of musicians, we are equally thrilled and humbled to know that the same program can help combat the awful realities of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

If you want to learn more about Alzheimer’s Disease and how you can contribute to the ongoing fight to find a cure, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at alz.org.

Cutting Through The Fog Of Alzheimer’s: Music and the brain

Music improves brain mind

Study after study has proven that music affects the brain positively or negatively depending on the circumstances. It can trigger memories, both good and bad, but the key phrase here is “trigger memories” as the wife of an Alzheimer’s patient in Wisconsin is finding out.

Bill Paese is an 82-year-old Alzheimer’s patient at the Rocky Knoll Health Care Center in Plymouth, Wis. For most of his life Bill sang in a barber shop quartet. According to his wife, Jean, an iPod playlist of barber shop music allows her to see glimpses of the man she married 53 years ago.

“He’s in there,” Jean told ABC News‘ Byron Pitts, “and sometimes we get to see him.”

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Jean and Bill Paese/courtesy ABC News

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are afflicted with the disease. It’s the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.

While researchers are careful to point out that listening to music is by no means a cure, it is believed that familiar music can activate enough areas of the brain to create connections and retrieve memories once thought lost.

In 2010, Dan Cohen, a social worker in New York, created the Music & Memory program in order for people to donate iPods for use by Alzheimer’s patients. To date the organization has collected approximately 10,000 iPods. The goal is 1 million. You can find information on how to donate here.

Music is truly amazing.