Saturday, May 18, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Playing the piano may improve brain health in the elderly

Published 17 April 2024
- By Editorial Staff
Promoting music education can also improve public health in the long run.

Playing a musical instrument or singing may help keep the brain healthy in old age, according to a UK study from the University of Exeter. It may also help reduce the risk of dementia.

The study, published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, involved 1107 people over the age of 40 with a median age of 68. The study, which is part of a larger research project on brain aging and dementia, examined the effect of music-related activities such as playing instruments, singing, reading and listening to music on cognitive health.

The researchers compared the cognitive scores of study participants who had engaged in some form of music in their lives with those who had never done so.

The results showed that participants who played instruments had significant cognitive benefits compared to the other groups. Benefits were most pronounced for those who played the piano and keyboard, but brass and woodwind instruments were also beneficial. The researchers suggest that this may be due to the “multiple cognitive demands” of the activity.

– Because we have such sensitive brain tests for this study, we are able to look at individual aspects of the brain function, such as short-term memory, long-term memory, and problem-solving and how engaging music effects that, lead author Professor Anne Corbett told the BBC.

– Specifically, playing an instrument has a particularly big effect, and people who continue to play into an older age saw an additional benefit.

“The brain needs to be exercised”

Benefits were also seen for those who sang, which may be due to the social benefits of participating in choral singing, for example. Those who read music regularly were correlated with better numerical memory.

– Our brain is a muscle like anything else and it needs to be exercised, and learning to read music is a bit like learning a new language, it’s challenging, Corbett says.

Passive music listening, however, did not provide the same cognitive benefits. The researchers have not yet examined the effects of taking up an instrument later in life, but they expect positive results based on this study.

Corbett believes that while more research is needed, promoting music education can be a “valuable” part of a public health message, encouraging older adults to return to music later in life.

– The message is around how people can proactively reduce their risk of cognitive decline or dementia, and really thinking about engaging with music as a way of doing that. This study does suggest that it could be part of a much wider lifestyle approach to improving brain health as you age.

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