6/14/10 – Longevity Center Selected to Explore Music, Memory and Aging Links

The Stanford Center on Longevity, which studies the nature and development of the entire human life span, will examine the possibility of using music to improve memory in older adults.

The Center on Longevity, along with the Stanford Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, has been selected to receive a Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts (SiCa) grant to convene an interdisciplinary conference in Fall 2010 to establish a collaborative research agenda.

Virtually everyone experiences memory decline with age. Alzheimer’s disease and clinical dementia are the most severe forms of this decline, although subtler versions of decline also come with age, including poorer recall and degraded working memory. But the relationship between music, memory and aging has received relatively little attention.

The Center on Longevity looks for innovative ways to use science and technology to solve the problems of people over 50 and improve the well-being of people of all ages. Laura L. Carstensen PhD, director of the Center on Longevity, and Jonathan Berger, CCRMA co-director and professor of music, will lead an effort to identify how such a link might occur and how it might be used to improve memory in older adults.

“Almost everyone has experienced an uncanny recollection of the lyrics from a song from childhood, even when they have trouble remembering other details. We teach children ‘The Alphabet Song’ to help them remember their ABCs,” said Dr. Carstensen, who is Fairleigh S. Dickinson Jr. Professor in Public Policy and professor of psychology at Stanford. “We need to know more about the ways that music may facilitate learning and memory at later ages.”

The two centers will bring together about 20 faculty, from Stanford and other universities, who represent a range of disciplines spanning the humanities, social sciences, medicine, engineering and business. The meeting, in coordination with the 2010-2011 campus-wide Memory arts theme, will be a guided discussion of important questions related to aging, memory and music and their interaction with our culture.