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Playing music in childhood is linked to a sharper mind in old age, study suggests | Music

The aging rocker clinging to his youth may be a figure of derision, but research suggests they should be envied for their mental acuity.

Researchers have found a link between learning a musical instrument in youth and improving thinking skills in old age. People with more experience playing a musical instrument showed greater lifetime improvement on a test of cognitive ability than those with less or no experience, according to an article from the University of Edinburgh.

The researchers found that this was the case even when taking into account their socioeconomic status, years of education, childhood cognitive ability, and their health in old age.

But emeritus professor Ian Deary, former director of the university’s Center for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology, said: “We have to emphasize that the association we found between playing instruments and lifetime cognitive improvement was small, and that we cannot prove that the first caused the second.

“However, as we and others look for the many small effects that might contribute to some people’s brains aging more healthily than others, these results are worth tracking.”

Of the 366 study participants, 117 reported some experience playing a musical instrument, primarily during childhood and adolescence.

The most widely played instrument was the piano, but many other instruments were played, such as the accordion, bagpipes, guitar, and violin.

The study participants were part of the “Lothian 1936 Birth Cohort,” a group of people from Edinburgh and Lothians, born in 1936, who took part in the 1947 Scottish Mental Survey.

The individuals were tested on a range of physical and mental functions as they aged, including repeating the standardized cognitive ability test they each took when they were 11 years old, which included questions requiring verbal reasoning, spatial awareness and numerical analysis.

Cohort members who had retaken the test at age 70 were asked about their lifetime musical experiences by researchers eager to find out if musical experience is linked to healthy aging.

In the study, the team used statistical models to look for associations between a person’s experience of playing a musical instrument and changes in their thinking skills between the ages of 11 and 70.

The university said the findings provided new evidence that playing an instrument is associated with small but detectable cognitive benefits throughout life.

Judith Okely, now a psychology professor at Napier University, said: “These results add to the evidence that activities that are mentally challenging, such as learning to play a musical instrument, might be associated with better thinking skills.”

Katie Overy, Senior Lecturer at the Reid School of Music, University of Edinburgh, said: “Music has so much to offer as a fun and social activity, it’s exciting to find that learning to play a musical instrument can also contribute to cognitive ageing. healthy”. .”

The study was funded by Age UK and the Economic and Social Research Council and was published in the journal Psychological Science.


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