The previous article explored how gaming can impact and increase one’s cognitive abilities.
Another way to encourage mental stimulation, build brain reserve (synaptic density) and engage in socialization is by participating in the arts – dancing, theatre, painting, sculpting, music and knitting.
The Arts and Your Brain
In 1997, Don Campbell published “The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind and Unlock the Creative Spirit,” which popularized Alfred A. Tomatis’ approach of using Mozart’s music to stimulate the brain and attempt to cure various disorders. Additional research during the mid-1990s found that listening to Mozart’s music temporarily improved spatial intelligence and temporal reasoning.
Since then researchers have continued to study the benefits of participating in the arts and its impact on the brain.
Most recently, according to a study published in 2012 by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, cited in a Huffington Post article, children who learned to play an instrument experienced less of a decline in brain function as they aged. The study demonstrated that adults who had played an instrument for at least 10 years performed better in memory and cognitive ability tests, and stated that those who continued or picked an instrument back up in adulthood appeared to improve their cognitive abilities.
“Behaviors can change your brain,” states Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, Emory University assistant professor and lead author of the study. “Musical activity requires years of practice and is a challenging cognitive exercise.”
Additionally, the same article cites a PBS documentary entitled “Arts & the Mind,” which explores various visual and performing arts programming and its mental impact on children and adults. The documentary focuses on the “use it or lose it” concept and makes claims that dance can help ward off dementia.
“Evidence says that participation in dance programs reduces the rate of the development of dementia by maybe 75 percent,” states Peter Davies, Neuroscientist at New York’s Albert Einstein Medical Center.
Gerry Richman, executive producer of Arts & the Mind, continues “Arts that combine physical as well as mental acuity are the best in terms of keeping the aging mind going, which is why dance appears to have such potent benefits.”
Arts and Alzheimer’s
The arts are also proving to be beneficial for people who have already developed Alzheimer’s and dementia. Through art therapy programs caregivers and healthcare professionals are finding that art can provide the following benefits:
- A way to communicate and express feelings;
- Utilizes other areas of the brain;
- Encourages socialization and decreases isolation, depression and loneliness;
- Promotes relaxation, which can improve behavior and mood;
- Improve relationships with loved ones.
Museums, like the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan, are tailoring programs to meet the needs of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. In “Reconnecting Through Art,” Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian follow a small group of individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s through the Rubin Museum of Art. Below are some of the caregiver’s comments from the article:
- “She’s alert for longer periods during the day, her walking is better, her responsiveness to stimuli around her in the home is better. It’s as though she’s been energized,” said Ms. Bedrosian Richardson, who was referencing her 90-year-old mother with late stages of dementia.
- “I don’t get out, ever. I don’t leave him. And here’s something we can do together. This is a way for us both do something together that’s fun, that he enjoys,” states Nancy Hano, 64, with her 87-year old partner.
Other Brain Benefits from Art
According to BeBrainFit.com, here are some additional mental health benefits from participating in art:
- Stimulates creativity imagination and enhances creative skills;
- Makes one more observant by concentrating on the details of environment;
- Enhances problem solving skills and encourages out-of-the-box thinking;
- Boosts self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment.
Art in Action
At Harrogate, our residents are involved in a myriad of visual and performing art programs including choir, Zumba, art classes, opera presentations and dances.
Additionally, Harrogate residents have taken trips to Museum of Natural History, Museum of Art, 911 Memorial in NYC and Sight & Sound Theatre. Most recently, a group of our resident artists submitted their artwork for the Ocean County College Senior Art Exhibit. Check out the gallery below to view pictures from the event.