Can the Arts Contribute to Healthier Aging?

September 14th, The National Academies of Sciences (NAS) hosted the
workshop, “Research
Gaps and Opportunities for Exploring the Relationship of the Arts to Health and
Well-Being in Older Adults
,” in collaboration with the National
Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and three divisions of the National Institutes of
Health (NIH). The D.C. workshop featured experts from the health and arts
fields, who discussed current arts and aging research, and the need for
increased exploration.

to the NEA blog, David
Reuben, chief of the Division of Geriatrics at the University of California,
Los Angeles, and the event moderator told to the audience, “Art is a lot like
life, it’s complicated and messy. To our sponsors and researchers: don’t walk
away from the mess.”

day-long workshop covered a range of topics, from the design of long-term care
facilities to the effect of music therapy on cognitive function.

of the speakers, Gottfried Schlaug, M.D.,
Ph.D., an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and a Dana
Foundation grantee
, studies music’s effects on brain function
and structure. He works with stroke and Parkinson’s patients, and discussed his
work in the LA Times in 2010:

"Music might provide an alternative entry point" to the brain, because it
can unlock so many different doors into an injured or ill brain, said Dr.
Gottfried Schlaug, a Harvard University neurologist. Pitch, harmony, melody,
rhythm and emotion—all components of music—engage different regions of the
brain. And many of those same regions are also important in speech, movement
and social interaction. If a disease or trauma has disabled a brain region
needed for such functions, music can sometimes get in through a back door and
coax them out by another route, Schlaug says.

to the NEA blog, “Later this fall, Schlaug will publish his study comparing
music intonation therapy against ‘speaking therapy’ for stroke patients.”

video and transcript of the arts and aging workshop are forthcoming on the NEA website.

if you’re looking for additional resources on the aging brain, please check out
Dana’s Brain
Resources for Seniors
to find links to validated sites and Dana


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