Sunday, February 20, 2011

Memory Aids

Here are two articles having to do with memory. The first concerns a study on older people.

A new study shows that one year of moderate physical exercise can increase the size of the brain's hippocampus in older adults, leading to an improvement in spatial memory. . . .The right hippocampus expanded in the older folks who exercised and shrank in the older folks who did not exercise. If you sit idly your capacity to form memories will decay.

For me, this study's results strengthens my feeling that there are a number of things people can do in their everyday lives that will benefit their music making (for which better memory is an asset). As a music therapist, I feel the reverse is also true, that going about music making in a non-stressed way can be of overall benefit to people in various ways. 

In an earlier post I made the point that a basic finding of the new neuroscience research is that within the brain all sorts of functions mediate all sorts of other functions. It's more an ecosystem than a machine. This study suggests that on a much more general level our non-musical behaviors can mediate our musical behaviors.

The second article is about a study indicating taking a test, i.e. working with retrieving information from memory, is better than other study methods.

Why retrieval testing helps is still unknown. Perhaps it is because by remembering information we are organizing it and creating cues and connections that our brains later recognize.

This study reminded me of a back and forth I had with Jeffrey Agrell some time ago about the benefits of practicing with the eyes closed. This study suggests that part of the benefit of doing that is that when not looking at the music on the page, you're amping up your retrieval process in the brain, which would be helping you remember how to play that particular passage.

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