Playing musical instruments benefits brain health in later life

  • 2 Min To Read
  • 3 months ago

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter suggests that playing a musical instrument or singing could have a positive impact on brain health in older individuals. The study, published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, found that engaging in music-related activities may help maintain good memory and cognitive functions.

The study involved over 1,100 participants aged over 40, with an average age of 68. The researchers examined the effects of playing an instrument, singing, reading and listening to music, as well as musical ability, on brain function. The cognitive data of those who engaged in music in some way in their lives were compared to those who had never participated in musical activities.

The results indicated that those who played musical instruments experienced the greatest cognitive benefits, possibly due to the "multiple cognitive demands" of this activity. Playing the piano or keyboard appeared to be particularly advantageous, while brass and woodwind instruments also showed positive effects. However, simply listening to music did not appear to have the same cognitive benefits.

The study also found that reading music regularly improved numerical memory. According to lead author Prof Anne Corbett, learning to read music is similar to learning a new language and can be challenging, thus exercising the brain.

While the research did not investigate the potential benefits of taking up a musical hobby later in life, Prof Corbett believes that it would be highly beneficial based on current evidence.

Prof Corbett suggests that promoting musical education and encouraging older adults to engage with music could be a valuable part of a public health message to reduce the risk of cognitive decline or dementia. However, she emphasizes that it would be overly simplistic to assume that playing a musical instrument alone can prevent dementia.

Dementia UK welcomed the study's findings, highlighting the ability of music to continue to bring joy and engagement to individuals living with dementia, even when other abilities and means of communication have been lost.

Overall, this study adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the cognitive benefits of engaging in music-related activities, particularly playing a musical instrument, and suggests that incorporating music into one's lifestyle may help maintain brain health as one ages.


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