Improved Immune Response in Older Adults


Recreational music-making modulates immunological responses and mood states in older adults.

Koyama M1, Wachi M, Utsuyama M, Bittman B, Hirokawa K, Kitagawa M.

Given that previous studies have shown that recreational music-making has benefits for younger individuals, we explored two questions.

(1) Could a recreational music-making protocol improve mood and modulate immunological responses in a direction opposite to that associated with chronic stress in older adults?

(2) Would the protocol affect older and younger participants differently?

Two groups of volunteers demarcated at age 65 years underwent identical one-hour recreational music-making interventions. Pre-and post-intervention data were collected using blood samples and mood state questionnaires. Data from 27 older and 27 younger volunteers were analyzed for cytokine production levels, natural killer cell activity, plasma catecholamines, and numbers of T cells, T cell subsets, B cells, and natural killer cells. Exercise expenditure was also recorded.

In the older group, we found significant increases in the number of lymphocytes, T cells, CD4+ T cells, memory T cells, and production of interferon-gamma and interleukin-6.  In the younger group, modulation was non-significant. Worthy of note was the specific immunological changes in the direction opposite to that expected with chronic stress in the older group. The increase in Th1 cytokine IFN-gamma and unchanged Th2 cytokine IL-4 and IL-10 levels in the older group suggests a shift to a Th1-dominant status, a shift opposite to that expected with stress. However, the immunological changes were not statistically different between the two groups. Mood states improved in both groups, but were also not statistically different between groups. Although no statistically significant difference was found between the two age groups, the improvement in immunological profile and mood states in the older group and the low level of energy required for participation suggest this music-making protocol has potential as a health improvement strategy for older individuals.