Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ., 1 May 2002
Vol. 2002, Issue 17, p. nw57
[DOI: 10.1126/sageke.2002.17.nw57]


Playful Rejuvenation: Researchers turn to music and other diversions for inspiration (People)

R. John Davenport;2002/17/nw57

Abstract: Donna Holmes is skeptical of the "Grandmother Hypothesis" (see Holmes Perspective). But when a proponent of the theory contacted the University of Idaho researcher and suggested that the two of them didn't think that differently, Holmes worked hard to sort out the data on each side. "She sent me a vast amount of literature," says Holmes. "I'm still struggling to process all that information." When faced with such intense intellectual challenges, Holmes says she often retreats to the local bar and sits down with a margarita to focus on the problem at hand. If things get really overwhelming, however, she dons a vintage dress and a tiara.

Drive through Moscow, Idaho, on the right night and you might catch Holmes belting out Motown tunes with "The Hot Flashes." The diversion helps her set aside the challenges of studying aging and get mentally refreshed, she says: "Singing and performing just seem to require a whole different set of abilities and personality traits."

For several other scientists who study aging, creating music or venturing into the natural world brings perspective. For instance, Rudolph Tanzi, who studies Alzheimer's disease at Harvard Medical School in Boston, refreshes himself by tickling the ivories. "I just play piano and improvise on some jazz theme until I relax," he says. "It works every time." Music is more than just a diversion, however. In the '80s, Tanzi played steady gigs with Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple--and could even have passed up college to tour with Blackmore's new band at the time. Tanzi still records, and he intends the music from his "Quiet Mind Project" to do just what it says.

On the other side of the continent, when Caleb "Tuck" Finch of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles isn't investigating genomic regulation of aging processes, he's fiddlin' old-time music with the Iron Mountain String Band. Across the Atlantic, Adam Antebi blows the saxophone, which he says helps inspire his work on Caenorhabditis elegans aging and development at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany.

Music isn't the only thing that rejuvenates researchers; others turn to the great outdoors. Mar´┐Ża Blasco of the National Center of Biotechnology in Madrid says conversations with her husband during long hikes give her "a more global view." And scuba diving gets Simon Melov out of a rut. Melov, of the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato, California, also recharges himself through visits to alien landscapes by reading science fiction.

What inspires you? Add a comment to this story and share how you refresh your mind.

--R. John Davenport

Citation: R. J. Davenport, Playful Rejuvenation: Researchers turn to music and other diversions for inspiration (People). Science's SAGE KE (1 May 2002),;2002/17/nw57

Science of Aging Knowledge Environment. ISSN 1539-6150