David Dobbs's article in Today's Science Times speaks of Dr. Conrad Claudius, a surgical resident, whose research on music and healing suggests that music's effects could result from a combination of increased production of pituitary growth hormone combined with a drop in stress hormones, although not every one agrees.
And Sara Reistad-Long reports on research that older brains may broaden their focus of attention:
"It may be that distractibility is not, in fact, a bad thing," said Shelly H. Carvard..."It may increase the amount of information available to the conscious mind."
For example, in studies where subject are asked to read passages that are interrupted with unexpected words or phrases, adults 60 and older work much more slowly than college students. Although the students plow through the texts at a consistent speed regardless of what the out-of-place words mean, older people slow down even more when the words are related to the topic at hand. That indicates that they are not just stumbling over the extra information, but are taking it in and processing it.
When both groups were later asked questions for which the out-of-place words might be answers, the older adults responded much better than the students.