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Making Music to Build Your Brain

Manic episodes burn up brain cells. So do depressive episodes. So do panic attacks. Cortisol run amuck leaves you with potholes in your head. Not to worry -- the brain has a built-in repair system, Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, BDNF.

They've been trying forever to reverse engineer antidepressants. If they can figure out how they work, they figure they will know what causes depression in the first place. At first they thought it was low serotonin levels, the proverbial "chemical imbalance." A more recent thought is that a low serotonin level is not the cause, after all; it's the effect. Fix the problem farther upstream by stimulating BDNF to repair the brain damage, and the serotonin level sorts itself out.

But the natural thing that gets this hormone humming to patch your potholes is learning! There's this big deal about seniors doing Sudoku to ward off dementia. But it only works until you get good at it. You have to keep doing new stuff that you don't already know how to do.

And what better than learning to play a musical instrument? You have no talent? You tried it as a kid and you were lousy? Hear me out. If you were good at it, it wouldn't build your brain. Seriously, it's like exercise. If you don't feel the struggle, you're not building the muscle. Making music turns out to be a full body/brain workout.


So go get yourself a ukelele! Your brain will be glad you did.
photo of pothole in public doman
photo of road repair taken by US Air Force and in public domain

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