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March 15, 2015

Neurodegeneration prevented with classical music

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com - @BednarChuck

Listening to classical music could be good for your brain, researchers from the University of Helsinki Department of Medical Genetics report in a new study published Thursday by the open-access biomedical sciences journal PeerJ.

In fact, the authors of that study discovered that listening to classical music enhanced the activity of genes involved in the secretion and transportation of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.

[STORY: Beethoven may have literally composed from the heart]

Furthermore, the activity was found to benefit synaptic neurotransmission, learning, and memory, while also down-regulating the genes responsible for mediating neurodegeneration. Many of the genes that were up-regulated, they added, are known to be play a role in both learning music and singing in songbirds, suggesting that different species evolved sound perception similarly.

Mozart makes you healthier

As lead investigator Dr. Irma Järvelä and her colleagues explained in a statement, listening to music is represents a complex cognitive function, and has been shown to cause multiple neuronal and physiological changes in the human brain. However, the molecular background responsible for causing these effects had been poorly understood.

[STORY: Researchers develop music for cats]

Dr. Järvelä’s team analyzed how listening to classical music affected the gene expression profiles of people who were most experienced musically and those who lacked such a background. All of the participants listened to Mozart's violin concert Nr 3, G-major, K.216, a 20-minute piece.

They found that listening to the concert enhanced the activity in genes involved in the secretion and transport of dopamine, as well as synaptic function, learning, and memory. One of the genes most affected, synuclein-alpha (SNCA), has previously been linked to Parkinson’s disease and is located in the part of the brain that has been most associated with musical aptitude.

SNCA is also known to contribute to song learning in songbirds, the researchers added. In contrast, listening to music down-regulated genes associated with neurodegeneration, indicating that classical music could help protect the brain from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Only the musically experienced reaped rewards

She and her fellow researchers added that the effect “was only detectable in musically experienced participants, suggesting the importance of familiarity and experience in mediating music-induced effects,” and that the findings could provide new insight into the genetic background of music perception and evolution, and the mechanisms linked to music therapy.

[STORY: Why sad music can make you happy]

As Tech Times reported, music has also recently been found to help reduce the stress levels of autistic children, preventing them from hurting themselves. Likewise, music is at the center of The Sync Project, an initiative designed to use music as a way to combat depression and other mental illnesses, as well as insomnia.

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