Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Playing musical instrument sharpen the brain as people grow, study suggests

Playing a musical instrument hits a high note for brain health particularly the piano, it is linked to improved memory and the ability to solve complex tasks, according to a new report published Jan. 28 in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Stuart Douglas, 78, has played the accordion all his long life.

“I learned to play the accordion as a boy living in a mining village in Fife and carried on throughout my career in the police force and beyond,” said Douglas, of Cornwall, England. “These days I still play regularly, and playing in the band also keeps my calendar full, as we often perform in public.”

Douglas’ playing has done more than keep him busy. A new study suggests it also kept his mind sharp as he aged. Researchers also found that continuing to play into later life provides even greater benefit.

“Overall, we think that being musical could be a way of harnessing the brain’s agility and resilience, known as cognitive reserve,” said study co-author Anne Corbett, a professor of dementia research at the University of Exeter in the UK.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on more than a thousand adults over the age of 40 participating in an ongoing study of brain health. Singing was also linked to better brain health, although researchers said this might be due to the social factors of being part of a choir or group.

“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,” Corbett said in a university news release.

“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 aging package for older adults to enable them to proactively reduce their risk and to promote brain health,” she added.

Douglas noted that he sees the beneficial effects from music at some of his gigs.

“We regularly play at memory cafes so have seen the effect that our music has on people with memory loss, and as older musicians ourselves we have no doubt that continuing with music into older age has played an important role in keeping our brains healthy,” Douglas said.

Engaging in music could help protect brain health as a person ages, playing a musical instrument is linked to improved memory and problem-solving and singing is also linked to better brain health.

 

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