Longtime playing of a musical instrument may help keep your mind sharp as old age sets in, a study has found.
Researchers Brenda Hanna-Pladdy and Alicia MacKay at the University of Kansas Medical Center surveyed 70 healthy people aged 60 to 83, giving them a series of neuropsychological tests.
Those with at least 10 years of musical experience had “better performance in nonverbal memory… and executive processes” compared to non-musicians, the investigators wrote. Their findings, which they describe as preliminary, are published in the April 4 advance online issue of the research journal Neuropsychology.
The results, they added, “suggest a strong predictive effect of high musical activity throughout the life span on preserved cognitive functioning in advanced age.”
If the findings are confirmed, music-making may join physical fitness, strong education and professional careers as factors found to contribute to higher mental test scores in old age.
It has already been known that “intensive repetitive musical practice can lead to bilateral cortical reorganization,” or widespread changes in brain wiring, Hanna-Pladdy and MacKay wrote. But it has been unclear, they added, whether musical abilities “transfer to nonmusical cognitive abilities” throughout life.
The people in the survey group were matched on age, education, history of physical exercise; musicians were matched on age of instrumental acquisition and years of formal musical training, the scientists noted.
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