Older adults benefit from music training early in life: biological evidence for long-term training-driven plasticity.

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: White-Schwoch, Travis; Woodruff Carr, Kali; Anderson, Samira; Strait, Dana L; Kraus, Nina
Year of Publication: 2013
Journal: J Neurosci
Volume: 33
Issue: 45
Pagination: 17667-74
Date Published: 2013 Nov 6
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1529-2401
Keywords: Acoustic Stimulation, Aged, Aging, Brain, Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Music, Neuronal Plasticity, Speech Perception, Time

Aging results in pervasive declines in nervous system function. In the auditory system, these declines include neural timing delays in response to fast-changing speech elements; this causes older adults to experience difficulty understanding speech, especially in challenging listening environments. These age-related declines are not inevitable, however: older adults with a lifetime of music training do not exhibit neural timing delays. Yet many people play an instrument for a few years without making a lifelong commitment. Here, we examined neural timing in a group of human older adults who had nominal amounts of music training early in life, but who had not played an instrument for decades. We found that a moderate amount (4-14 years) of music training early in life is associated with faster neural timing in response to speech later in life, long after training stopped (>40 years). We suggest that early music training sets the stage for subsequent interactions with sound. These experiences may interact over time to sustain sharpened neural processing in central auditory nuclei well into older age.

DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2560-13.2013
Alternate Journal: J. Neurosci.