Is Cognitive Reserve?
To answer this question we need to examine the brain with two questions
- What is cognitive reserve?
- What impact does a song have on the brain?
Imagine the brain is made up of ten million brain cells, now picture each of these brain cells looking like a fried egg! The yolk is the nucleus and the white is the cell body. Coming in from the left are strands called dendrites, these bring signals to the brain cell from other brain cells, on the right is something called an axon tube, this sends messages to other brain cells, at the end of the axon tube is the axon terminal, at the tip of this terminal lie chemicals called neuro transmitters, the signals from brain cell “a” are transmitted down the axon tube through the neuro transmitters and into the dendrites that lead to brain cell “b” “c” “d” etc
Now think of these pathways as roads. The amount of roadways in the brain is not fixed, each of us have differing numbers of roads depending on how we exercise our brains.
Person “A” has done the same job since he left school 45 years ago, every year he visits the same holiday destination. believes study is for children, instead he prefers to spend his evening watching the TV. Person “A”s brain has not been regularly exercised, so we will say that he has 100 million roads in his brain.
Person “B” through study and promotion has had a number of jobs in the last 45 years. She spends her holiday time visiting different locations in the world, and tries to learn the language of the country she is going to visit. In her spare time she has joined a rock choir, loves walking and is learning to play the piano. Her brain is being exercised, she has 120 million roadways in her brain. The difference between person a and b is 20 million roadways. This difference is her cognitive reserve. So if person a and b were to get dementia on the same day. As plaques and tangles start to destroy the roadways in their brains, person b has more roads to start with, and can withstand the assault of dementia for longer with a better quality of life.
Although with more than 100 different types of dementia, it is wrong to generalize. Person a will from day one be on a downward slope, person b will stay level longer. This is why building cognitive reserve is important. It does not prevent dementia, but could certainly hold back the tide for longer.
So why does a song have an impact on our brain? Lets think of that for a moment. What is our brain processing when we sing a song? These include... how long is the note? how high or low is the note? what is the next note, and the notes after that? What is the melody? And what is the harmony? What words fit this tune? What memories does this song create in me? And so on.
Key methods of creating cognitive reserve are aerobic exercise bringing fresh blood, nutrients, and liquids to the brain, Language, seeking new challenges and last but not least Music!
So why is SAM special? SAM stands for Sing Along Machine, this is the basis of the “Musical Brain Gym”
Learning to pay a musical instrument can take many years. SAM is a basic instrument that you can learn to play in minutes. It uses five colour coded keys that along with a choice of styles, speed and pitch that can be used to accompany 90% of most western songs ever written.
By adding colour coded lyrics, the player can quickly sing a song from the past. These songs have been picked because for many, they lie deeper in the memory. But this is not the end of the story. Players can research their own favourite songs, colour code them, print them off, and use SAM to create songs for every occasion.
SAM is currently being used at home, in hospitals, day centres and care homes. Of course it would be beneficial to build cognitive reserve from birth. But by using SAM you can start at any time. SAM cannot reverse dementia. But it can improve the quality of life for people with early stage dementia, their families, friends and caregivers. And of course SAM is great at parties.
We do not believe that it is acceptable to use in app purchases to create funding, after all SAM is intended to help people avoid or deal with memory issues in the present. So we have placed SAM onto the apple store for just £2.29 less than the price of a happy meal or a beer. We need to sell 16,000 copies to recover the development cost, then we will use additional profits to make SAM available on all platforms, SAM will of course be constantly upgraded, and we will develop other tools for building cognitive reserve.