BRiTE program's first national coverage: "Innovative program aids older adults with mild memory loss."
by Tony Dearing
PITTSBURGH -- Two days a week, Jennie Dorris raises her baton to help an unlikely group of musicians melodize their way to better brain health.
Few of her students have previous musical training. Their concern is more medical. They've been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, and the marimba lessons she leads on Mondays and Fridays are part of an innovative wellness program designed to help slow their memory loss.
Research has shown music can be instrumental (pun intended) in keeping our mind sharp as we age.
So when scientists at the University of Pittsburgh set out to create a program aimed specifically at people with MCI, the idea of including a marimba class struck the right chord.
"We chose these types of instruments because they are very visual, and you can sort of feel like you're playing a game while you're learning a melody," Dorris says. "This is a really unique way to connect with people who want to work on their memory."
Sally Newman, Sam Williams and Barry Leonard play the marimba in Jennie Dorris's (back left) music class at BRiTE on Friday, February 17, 2017. CREDIT LIZ REID / 90.5 WESA
A visit to the Brain Exercise and Training Program at the University of Pittsburgh
"Jennie Dorris’s four music students each stood, mallets in hand, behind a marimba, which looks a little like a xylophone. They were getting one last look at the original melody they wrote before Dorris erased it from the dry erase board and they had to play it from memory.
"'Take a look at it. Use the contours, look at your instrument,' Dorris told her students. 'Let’s see how it goes.'"
Read the full article and listen to the audio here.
Credit to the P-G's Nate Guidry for the video.
Pitt program stimulates seniors with memory issues
article by Gary Rotstein (full version here) and photos by Nate Guidry
Barry Leonard, 81, with longtime concerns about memory lapses, spent part of a recent Monday morning joining other seniors playing the marimba, the mallets in his hands tapping out the notes and measures drummed into his brain by months of repetition.The music was a breeze for Sally Newman, 87, a former professional pianist who got a bigger mental challenge afterward from computer games testing her ability to recall objects flashing on the screen.
Bernie Glesky, 80, joining them in a new three-day-a-week University of Pittsburgh program, appreciated ending the morning with hand weights, leg lifts, stretch bands and other physical exercise, trusting in the theory that “the body is connected to the mind.”
The three octogenarians are among the first 15 participants enrolled in Pitt’s Brain Exercise and Training Wellness Program, or BRiTE, designed to assist people who have mild cognitive impairment. It’s a condition associated with memory problems in older adults, which can be a preliminary sign of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, although not necessarily. The program is based on research and theories suggesting people can be helped at such a stage by well-rounded mental, physical and social stimulation."
BRiTE launches: Pitt Brain Exercise and Training Program Aims to Improve Mind and Body Wellness in Individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment
Individuals with mild cognitive impairment have a new resource in Pittsburgh with the recently established Brain Training and Exercise (BRiTE) mind and body wellness program, developed by a team of clinicians and scientists at the University of Pittsburgh with expertise in cognition and behavior. The program works to stimulate the brain and body of those with known or suspected cognitive impairment with the goal of improving overall health and wellness.
“There already are effective and well-developed programs that provide home care and nursing homes that benefit individuals with more advanced disease, yet there is little available for individuals with very mild cognitive deficits,” said James T. Becker, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, neurology and psychology at Pitt. “The BRiTE program provides these individuals with the opportunity to maintain their active occupational and social lifestyles.”
Read the entire article.
Charleston's The Post and Courier published a fantastic piece about the impetus and process of the decision to scan a musician's brain. Here's a look at what we are able to learn about the activity during music making:
For instance, understanding the rhythm of the brain could shed light on the way humans operate. In Lewandowski’s head, activity ebbed and flowed, not always in conjunction with the musical patterns. The colors bloomed often during quiet musical moments, then subsided as the cellist attacked his instrument with vigor.
And our upcoming research got a nice mention, as well!
Jenny [sic] Dorris, a percussionist and research associate at Carnegie Mellon, is working on a study about music’s effect on the aging brain, Becker noted.
CMU's School of Music was excited to partner with the University of Pittsburgh, cellist Norbert Lewandowski, and Jacobo Mintzer of the Roper St. Francis Clinical Biotechnology Research Institute. This August we began taking images of Lewandowski's brain while he listened to different types of recordings -- both his own playing, the playing of others, and white noise. Coming soon: More on what we found, and a video of the experience.