When you use your voice for a living, maintaining cognitive wellness can be just as vital as physical wellness in boosting the quality of your performances. Research shows you can improve and maintain your cognitive health by eating healthily (macro- and micronutrients), hydrating, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, staying socially active, engaging in mentally stimulating activities, and managing stress.
Read on as we dig down further into what cognitive function is and why it is so important for musical performance. We will also discuss the evidence behind how food supplements can support your cognitive health and how taking them daily may be instrumental in helping you supercharge your musical performances and daily performance in general.
What is ‘Cognitive function’?
Cognitive function involves a broad range of mental processes that enable us to think, reason, learn, remember, problem-solve, and make decisions. These processes are essential for everyday tasks and play a crucial role in overall health and wellbeing. They include:
· Attention: the ability to focus on specific information while ignoring distractions.
· Memory: the ability to acquire, store, and retrieve information.
· Creativity: the ability to generate new ideas and think outside the box.
· Processing speed: the ability to process information quickly and accurately.
· Language: the ability to understand and communicate language.
· Perception: the ability to interpret sensory information from the environment.
· Executive function: the ability to plan, organise, and carry out tasks.
· Spatial skills: the ability to understand and manipulate visual and spatial information.
· Reasoning and problem-solving: the ability to use logic and critical thinking to solve problems.
· Emotional intelligence: the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, as well as understand and empathise with the emotions of others.
Why is improving cognition important for improving my musical performances?
Let’s look at one of the most athletic of vocal activities – Singing. Singing requires a complex interplay of cognitive processes such as attention, memory, and executive function. For example, singers need to be able to remember, concentrate and stay focused on the lyrics and melody of a song, and have good executive function skills such as planning and decision-making to create a cohesive and expressive performance. Pitch perception and vocal accuracy can benefit from enhanced musical memory, attention, and timing. These skills are even more important when improvising or working with live accompaniment such as a band or piano accompanist.
Even songwriting may benefit from a brain boost, as cognitive improvements have been linked to enhanced creativity and the generation of creative ideas. A study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (2012) found that musicians with greater cognitive control abilities, such as working memory, attention, and inhibition, showed higher levels of musical creativity compared to those with lower cognitive control abilities.
In addition to this, the demands of singing can be physically and mentally taxing, requiring singers to sustain their focus and energy for extended periods of time. This can be particularly challenging in high-pressure situations such as auditions, performances, and recording sessions, where the ability to maintain optimal cognitive function can make a significant difference in the quality of the performance.
Through supporting their cognitive health, singers may be better equipped to cope with the demands of their profession, and potentially improve their vocal performances.
The importance of micronutrients on cognition
Improving diet may help to protect not only the health of your body but also your brain. The inflammatory effects of a western diet with a high percentage of processed food - high in calories, saturated fat, salt, and sugar – can have detrimental effects on our brain health. The Journal of International Medical Research (2007) reviewed the literature on potential influence of micronutrients on cognitive function and performance. The searches confirmed that the water-soluble vitamins (B group and C), together with the minerals, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, are most relevant to cognitive performance. Clinical evidence revealed that marginal deficiencies of one or more of these micronutrients are not uncommon, even in developed countries, and that such deficiencies may affect cognitive performance, especially in vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those individuals who are exposed to occupational pressures and a stressful lifestyle. Further studies also support the suggestion that sub-optimal micronutrient intake may have a negative effect on cognition across the lifespan (Denniss et al, 2019).
‘Food First’ policy
Food supplements are not designed to be used as a substitute for a varied diet and healthy lifestyle. A ‘food-first’ policy is always going to be the best option for managing potential micronutrient inadequacies. However, UK-wide nutritional studies are clear in the data that only around 30% of adults consume their 5-a-day of recommended fruit and vegetables, often opting for foods which are high in fats, sugar, and salt instead. Additional supplementation is a recognised practice amongst dieticians (Dickinson et al, 2012) and it’s becoming increasingly common for individuals to take dietary supplements for supporting overall health and wellness, to address specific health concerns, or to compensate for nutrient deficiencies in their diet according to the Health Food Manufacturer’s Association (2021).
‘Unhealthy nutritional habits and lifestyle effects often have a negative effect in nutrient homeostasis, in which case, dietary supplements are required to restore nutrient balance’ (Lentjes, 2019).
Taking VitaVoice Optimise daily can support your body so it can better work towards reducing the negative effects of poor diet. It contains Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc and Magnesium to support your cognitive health, maintaining balance and correcting any nutritional deficiencies you may have. It also contains the brain-boosting nootropic benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Panax Ginseng, and KSM-66 Ashwagandha. Providing you a daily boost of vitality, creativity, mental clarity, and focus. Making you feel great every day and helping you perform at your best.
De Dreu, C. K. W., Nijstad, B. A., Baas, M., Wolsink, I., & Roskes, M. (2012). Working Memory Benefits Creative Insight, Musical Improvisation, and Original Ideation Through Maintained Task-Focused Attention. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(5), 656–669. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167211435795
Denniss, R.J., Barker, L.A. & Day, C.J. (2019). Improvement in cognition following double-blind randomized micronutrient interventions in the general population. Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience. Vol 13.
Dickinson, A.; Bonci, L.; Boyon, N.; Franco, J.C. Dietitians use and recommend dietary supplements: Report of a survey. Nutr. J. 2012, 11, 14.
Health Food Manufacturer’s Association (HFMA): Health of the Nation Survey 2021
Huskisson, E., Maggini, S. & Ruf, M. (2007). The Influence of Micronutrients on Cognitive Function and Performance. The Journal of International Medical Research, 35: 1 – 19.
Lentjes, M.A.H. The balance between food and dietary supplements in the general population. Proc. Nutr. Soc. 2019, 78, 97–109.