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Why Playing An Instrument Protects Your Brain

A recent study conducted at Baycrest Health Sciences has uncovered a crucial piece into why playing a musical instrument can help older adults retain their listening skills and ward off age-related cognitive declines. This finding could lead to the development of brain rehabilitation interventions through musical training.

400 published scientific papers have proven the old adage that "music is medicine." Neurochemical benefits of music can improve the body's immune system, reduce anxiety levels and help regulate mood in ways that drugs have difficulty competing. Opoids are also responsible for music's myriad effects on mood, pain and well-being, giving clues to how we can harness its benefits even how it affects our aging.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that learning to play a sound on a musical instrument alters the brain waves in a way that improves a person's listening and hearing skills over a short time frame. This change in brain activity demonstrates the brain's ability to rewire itself and compensate for injuries or diseases that may hamper a person's capacity to perform tasks.
"Music has been known to have beneficial effects on the brain, but there has been limited understanding into what about music makes a difference," says Dr. Bernhard Ross, senior scientist at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute (RRI) and senior author on the study. "This is the first study demonstrating that learning the fine movement needed to reproduce a sound on an instrument changes the brain's perception of sound in a way that is not seen when listening to music."
This finding supports Dr. Ross' research using musical training to help stroke survivors rehabilitate motor movement in their upper bodies. Baycrest scientists have a history of breakthroughs into how a person's musical background impacts the listening abilities and cognitive function as they age and they continue to explore how brain changes during aging impact hearing.
The study involved 32 young, healthy adults who had normal hearing and no history of neurological or psychiatric disorders. The brain waves of participants were first recorded while they listened to bell-like sounds from a Tibetan singing bowl (a small bell struck with a wooden mallet to create sounds). After listening to the recording, half of the participants were provided the Tibetan singing bowl and asked to recreate the same sounds and rhythm by striking it and the other half recreated the sound by pressing a key on a computer keypad.
"It has been hypothesized that the act of playing music requires many brain systems to work together, such as the hearing, motor and perception systems," says Dr. Ross, who is also a medical biophysics professor at the University of Toronto. "This study was the first time we saw direct changes in the brain after one session, demonstrating that the action of creating music leads to a strong change in brain activity."
The study's next steps involve analyzing recovery between stroke patients with musical training compared to physiotherapy and the impact of musical training on the brains of older adults.
With additional funding, the study could explore developing musical training rehabilitation programs for other conditions that impact motor function, such as traumatic brain injury.
Research for this study was conducted with support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which supported research staff and equipment.
Dr. Ross' work is setting the foundation to develop hearing aids of the future and cognitive training programs to maintain hearing health.

This first appeared in Prevent Disease

Fast Growing Veggies in an Emergency

There is a growing trend to home garden or be able to 'live off grid' in an emergency.  As gardeners we know the easy to grow veggies from the hard ones so here is your Emergency Garden Plan.

This tubs are large.  You can use ones
half this size
GOAL:  Plant to have food in 30 days.

Day 1.

Grab 2 dozen plastic 2 foot by 18 inch by 10 inch totes.    Drill holes in the bottom.   Fill with potting soil and plant 6 tubs with.

1) carrots
2) spinach
3) green onions

Set the tubs on the lids and use the lids as drainage saucers.

Put these in a sunny window or sliding door.  They will be harvest able in 30 days.  They can be added to rice or potatoes.   The Spinach will regrow.  The ends of the onions can be replanted as can the carrots.   Just keep replanting them.  

1. Lettuce – 2. Chard –3. Kale –
4. Chinese Greens –Bok choi or sui choi
 Moderately Easy - 
5. Beets – 6. Carrots – 7. Radishes – 
Moderately Difficult
8. Beans – 9. Peas –10. Tomatoes – 
11. Squash – 12. Cucumber – 13. Lemon –
14. Strawberries – 15. Potatoes – 

Day 2

Plant the other 6 tubs  with

3) zucchini
4) beans
5) cherry tomatoes
5) peppers

These do better outside, but can "can' be grown  inside.  They will start to be ready to harvest in 35-55 days.

Day 3

Potatoes.   In 5 large  milk crates line with landscape cloth (or newspaper to keep the dirt in) and fill 1/4 way with dirt.  Plant Potato eyes.   As the green tops get to be 4 -5 inches cover all but the top 1 inch with dirt... repeat.   These also do better outside but can be grown inside.

Potatoes can be harvested in 10 weeks.
Store the potatoes and beans after harvest.
Repeat the planting.

Day 15

Plant the remaining 12 tubs just like the first 12


1) DO plant a regular garden  when the weather is right....  Use the technique above year round in an emergency to make sure you have something 'green' and fresh in 30 days and for the following months.

2)  If you don't have sunny windows... use a south facing patio and make sure you have  6 MM opaque film you can tack between your roof edge and the ground 7  feet away.  You will need a  4 X12 foot area.
This is a fancy lean to.  Plastic tacked to the drip edge and
stretched down works too

3) One large bag of potting soil will fill 3 small tubs or two buckets.  You can buy 8 bags for 9.00 a bag.

You can get fancy and add starter beds with glass tops
 using tubs with old windows laid on top

Material list to store

A box with 6mm opaque plastic 20 feet by 50 feet.   (this will give you two years worth.. cut it in half at 25 feet.

4 2X 10s
Staple gun
A few nails
Step stool
25 bins or buckets
9 bags of topsoil
a 1/2 dozen milk crates (for potatoes)

On the south side of the house...wrap 24 foot side around 2 X 4s (staple) and nail to your roof eve.... then  wrap a two by for in the other side (staple) .  and set it away from the house.   Done.  plant your buckets.

Hint About Water

Do set set up a rain catchment system or have a pool.  Times each square foot by .65 and that is how many gallons a week you will need.   So a 144 square foot garden (12 bins or buckets) needs 93 gallons a week.