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MP 4 The aging brain and creativity
  1. M Gaviria
  1. Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, University of Illinois Chicago, Director of Neuropsychiatry, Advocate Christ Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA


The development of the brain and its interaction with the mind could be understood by studying the effect of music on humans. The findings of such studies on musicians can have implications on the treatment of neurological disorders and even in teaching children. Music played an important role in the evolution of the human mind, and was instrumental in selection of mates, social cohesions (in group efforts such as pulling heavy objects), conflict reduction and trans-generational communication to convey useful information to future generations. Almost all parts of the brain were involved in the appreciation of music, and studies on the effect of music on humans helped understand how the brain integrated complex perception and behaviour tasks, exploring the links connecting music, neurology and psychiatry. Neuroscientists are starting to address questions regarding the brain and its plasticity by studying changes in the brain structures of musicians. For instance, it was found that merely playing melodies in the mind could activate sections of the brain. Certain parts of the brain were more developed in musicians who had started learning music at an early age. Explaining the emotive aspect of music, studies had revealed that music activated the same pathways in the brain that were triggered by pleasurable activities, such as eating and sex. Even people with dementia or Alzheimer's Disease—conditions that disconnected them from reality—were moved to tears if they heard voices of close relatives or tunes that reminded them of their past. This presentation will review some of the new concepts regarding the ageing process and the adaptation of the brain to perform the same cognitive tasks but using a reorganisation of hemispheric functions and neural networks. Epidemiological, clinical and neuroimaging data will be presented to explain the process of adaptation to old age. The centuries study as well as the nun's follow-up study will be discussed. The concept of creativity will be discussed. We will portray Pablo Casals to illustrate the process of creativity in old age.

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