Engaging in Music Associated with Better Brain Health

Feb. 2, 2024
Researchers from the University of Exeter found that playing a musical instrument or singing is linked to improved brain health

Fun fact about this Editor-in-Chief: I played trumpet from around the age of 9 and continued throughout college. I also was a counselor at a band camp in high school (please no “American Pie” jokes) and picked up some sub-mediocre skills on a few different instruments (piano, clarinet, and flute) along the way.

I’m now regretting not continuing my musical ambitions much past my 20s.

According to a news article from the U.K.-based University of Exeter, engaging in music throughout one’s life is connected with better brain health in older age, according to a new study published by researchers at the university.

The press release says that “Scientists working on PROTECT, an online study open to people aged 40 and over, reviewed data from more than a thousand adults over the age of 40 to see the effect of playing a musical instrument – or singing in a choir – on brain health. Over 25,000 people have signed up for the PROTECT study, which has been running for 10 years.”

The researchers studied participants’ musical experience and lifetime exposure to music along with the results of cognitive testing to see if musicality helps keep the brain sharp in older age.

“The findings show that playing a musical instrument, particularly the piano, is linked to improved memory and the ability to solve complex tasks – known as executive function,” the article adds.  “Continuing to play into later life provides even greater benefit. The work also suggests that singing was also linked to better brain health, although this may also be due to the social factors of being part of a choir or group.”

Anne Corbett, professor of Dementia Research at the University of Exeter was quoted in the news release saying that “A number of studies have looked at the effect of music on brain health. 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.”

My husband is a bass guitarist. He jams weekly and often asks me if I want to join him. I suppose I should reconsider my stance; we do have an electronic keyboard at home …

The University of Exeter has the article.

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