A recent study by Du Yi et al. reveals that lifelong musical training helps mitigate age-related declines in audiovisual speech-in-noise perception through functional preservation and compensation.
Musicians maintain youthful speech representation patterns in sensorimotor regions, leading to better performance. They also exhibit functional compensation by recruiting frontal-parietal regions and deactivating the default mode network (DMN). The preservation of youth-like patterns in sensorimotor areas is a core mechanism, closely linked to compensatory scaffolding.
These findings provide insights into adaptive brain reorganization in aging populations and suggest targeted training regimens to protect speech functions in the elderly.
This study is significant because it provides insights into how lifelong musical training can positively impact the aging brain and contribute to “successful aging.” It demonstrates that musicians maintain better audiovisual speech-in-noise perception, an important aspect of communication, as they age.
By understanding the mechanisms behind this preservation and compensation, researchers can develop targeted interventions and training programs to help protect and enhance speech functions in older adults. This could potentially improve the quality of life for the elderly by facilitating better communication and social interaction, which are crucial for overall well-being and cognitive health.
Dr. Du Yi, from the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, set aside some time to discuss how music can impact age-related deficits.
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Based on your study, how does lifelong musical training impact age-related deficits in audiovisual speech-in-noise perception in older adults?
Based on this study, we found long-term musical training support both functional preservation and compensation mechanism to mitigate age-related declining in audiovisual speech-in-noise perception.
Your study suggests that older musicians (OM) have better functional preservation in the sensorimotor regions compared to older non-musicians (ONM). Can you elaborate on how this preservation contributes to better speech-in-noise perception performance?
Neural representation of syllables in sensorimotor areas are significantly degraded in ONM, but not in OM, which indicate OM retain phoneme specificity which declined with aging. In addition, we found the OMs’ neural activity spatial pattern is more like young adults than ONM. The more youthlike brain activation pattern is, the better speech-in-noise perception performance is.
Your findings show two compensation mechanisms that help OM achieve better speech-in-noise perception performance. Could you discuss the roles of the frontal-parietal regions and the deactivation of the default mode network (DMN) in this context?
Frontal-parietal regions is involved with working memory, and default mode network is involved in the allocation of attentional resources. Therefore, long-term musical training may promote all-round cognitive abilities to support speech-in-noise perception.
How does the relationship between functional preservation and compensatory scaffolding contribute to the better speech-in-noise perception performance in OM?
We found that functional preservation and compensatory scaffolding were related, and there 2 mechanisms were correlated to behavioral performance separately. However, in this study, we cannot answer how the relationship between functional preservation and compensatory scaffolding contribute to the better speech-in-noise perception performance.
What are the limitations of this study, and how might they be addressed in future research?
This is a cross-sectional study, therefore, we cannot rule out the possibility that musicians may have better predisposition to musical training, which could partly account for the group difference in performance and brain activity. In the future study, we will carry out a longitudinal study to examine the causal effect of musical expertise.
Are there potential differences in the effects of lifelong musical training on speech-in-noise perception among older adults who specialize in different types of musical instruments or singing? If so, what are the implications of this for future research?
In our previous study, we recruited older instrumentalists and older vocalists to complete speech-in-noise tasks. We did not find significant difference between these 2 groups. However, in this study, older instrumentalists’ training years were significantly greater than older vocalists, which suggest that vocal training may be more effective than instrument training. In the future study, we could carry out a neural study to explore this interesting question.
How might your findings on the functional preservation of sensorimotor regions and compensatory DMN deactivation inform the development of targeted training regimens to protect speech functions in older adults?
Musicians are required to intensively integrate sensory and motor system during musical training, and in our study, we found musicians’ advantage in sensorimotor and speech motor areas. Therefore, we believe the targeted training regimens that involves sensorimotor training is one of the ideal options.