Music Training May Reduce Memory Decline and Cognitive Aging, New Study Reveals

By Sharon Moore on July 26, 2012

Indeed, music rocks. In a new study published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, it was found that people who engaged in music training benefited from reduced memory decline and cognitive aging. The author Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist in Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology offers new evidences that music training, as compared to other activities, gives more benefits in the brain than other kinds of leisure.

Musical training boosts cognitive functions.

In her study, she compared the cognitive outcomes between older adults who are active in musical activities and those who are engaged in leisure activities. Her findings show that there are certain cognitive benefits that were retained in musicians aged 60 to 80 who played for at least 10 years throughout their lifetime. Cognitive benefits were demonstrated in both verbal and nonverbal functions, as well as memory, which is a critical factor affecting the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Hanna-Pladdy also determined whether there’s a critical period necessary for people to achieve optimum cognitive benefits from musical training. Although the length of training and musical engagement is a major factor that determines cognitive improvement, she found certain stages in life where people can get optimum enhancement of their cognitive functions through music training. Memory functions, for instance, such as reorganising digits in the head and remembering are enhanced before the age of 9. Nonetheless, there were other functions such as verbal abilities involving visuospatial judgment that were developed even in advanced age. This only means that it isn’t too late for adults to reap the benefits of musical training.

You don’t lose it if you don’t use it.

One of the most surprising findings in her study was that the benefits of musical training don’t go away when a person stops playing. Maintenance of advantages is not reliant on continued activity, Hanna-Pladdy explained.

Emerging studies suggest that obtaining high educational levels could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. According to the researcher, her study shows a promising role of musical activity as a form of cognitive enrichment that can be obtained throughout the lifetime. It also raises the possibility that musical training could be considered as an alternative form of educational training. Hanna-Pladdy suggests playing musical instrument for at least 10 years and if possible, and to continue playing over the age of 60.


Sources of this article:

Recent and past musical activity predicts cognitive aging variability: direct comparison with general lifestyle activities, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

Music has big brain benefits compared to other leisure pursuits, Emory University

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