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Playing Piano for Brain Health


Today I saw the film, Still Alice, starring Julianne Moore as a 50-year-old professor suffering from a rare type of early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. It breaks your heart to watch Alice losing her ability to communicate:

I can see the words hanging in front of me and I can’t reach them, and I don’t know who I am or what I’m going to lose next…

Besides winning accolades for Julianne Moore’s performance, Still Alice is raising awareness of the isolation experienced by sufferers of Alzheimer’s and dementias. In the film, Alice says, “I wish I had cancer” because of the shame and helplessness she feels about having Alzheimer’s.

Often cited as the #1 fear amongst older adults, scientists still don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s disease. According to the New York Times, it affects more than 5 million Americans and another 8 million people worldwide.

According to a CNN report, the good news is that with exercise, a good social life and music lessons, we might have a fighting chance against Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, an assistant professor of neurology at Emory University, believes that neural pathways in the brain that have been strengthened by music lessons, compensate to delay the damaging effects of aging. Her research has demonstrated that music lessons, even for amateurs, “provides a cognitive benefit that can last throughout a person’s life.”

If you read my blog post Fireworks in Your Brain, you’ll remember the animated short telling us that playing a musical instrument gives our brains a huge boost because it engages practically every area of the brain at once.

Although starting lessons as a child is advantageous, Hanna-Pladdy has shown that even playing music at an advanced age promotes improved cognitive functioning, and may stave off Alzheimer’s.

But there is one caveat…you must play for at least 10 years! If you already take piano lessons, this will come as no big surprise. Learning an instrument takes time, patience and will power.

I hope you will keep on playing your way to good health, happiness and beauty.

With love and music, Gaili

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