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Music-Making is Linked to Better Brain Health, New Research Says

A new study from the University of Exeter shows that playing an instrument into old age is "associated with significantly better performance in working memory and executive function"


A new study out of the University of Exeter is the latest in a body of research that has found playing an instrument or singing is associated with better brain health in older age.

The data is taken from the PROTECT study, which has surveyed more than 25,000 people over the age of 40 and has been running for the past decade. Researchers looked at a subset of approximately 1,000 participants and compared the results of their cognitive testing with their musical experience and lifetime exposure to music.

The results suggest that playing a musical instrument — particularly the piano — was associated with significant improvement in executive function, as well as memory. These markers increased further if participants continued to play into old age.

You can read the full study, here.

"A number of studies have looked at the effect of music on brain health," said Anne Corbett, a Professor of Dementia Research at the University of Exeter. "Our PROTECT study has given us a unique opportunity to explore the relationship between cognitive performance and music in a large cohort of older adults. Overall, we think that being musical could be a way of harnessing the brain’s agility and resilience, known as cognitive reserve."

"Although more research is needed to investigate this relationship, our findings indicate that promoting musical education would be a valuable part of public health initiatives to promote a protective lifestyle for brain health, as would encouraging older adults to return to music in later life. There is considerable evidence for the benefit of music group activities for individuals with dementia, and this approach could be extended as part of a healthy ageing package for older adults to enable them to proactively reduce their risk and to promote brain health."

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