Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Childhood music lessons may provide lifelong boost in brain functioning

Date:
April 20, 2011
Source:
American Psychological Association
Summary:
Those childhood music lessons could pay off decades later -- even for those who no longer play an instrument -- by keeping the mind sharper as people age, according to a preliminary study.

Those childhood music lessons could pay off decades later -- even for those who no longer play an instrument -- by keeping the mind sharper as people age, according to a preliminary study.
Credit: Vladimir Konjushenko / Fotolia

Those childhood music lessons could pay off decades later -- even for those who no longer play an instrument -- by keeping the mind sharper as people age, according to a preliminary study published by the American Psychological Association.

The study recruited 70 healthy adults age 60 to 83 who were divided into groups based on their levels of musical experience. The musicians performed better on several cognitive tests than individuals who had never studied an instrument or learned how to read music. The research findings were published online in the APA journal Neuropsychology.

"Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of aging," said lead researcher Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, PhD. "Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive declines as we get older."

While much research has been done on the cognitive benefits of musical activity by children, this is the first study to examine whether those benefits can extend across a lifetime, said Hanna-Pladdy, a clinical neuropsychologist who conducted the study with cognitive psychologist Alicia MacKay, PhD, at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

The three groups of study participants included individuals with no musical training; with one to nine years of musical study; or with at least 10 years of musical training. All of the participants had similar levels of education and fitness and didn't show any evidence of Alzheimer's disease.

All of the musicians were amateurs who began playing an instrument at about 10 years of age. More than half played the piano while approximately a quarter had studied woodwind instruments such as the flute or clarinet. Smaller numbers performed with stringed instruments, percussion or brass instruments.

The high-level musicians who had studied the longest performed the best on the cognitive tests, followed by the low-level musicians and non-musicians, revealing a trend relating to years of musical practice. The high-level musicians had statistically significant higher scores than the non-musicians on cognitive tests relating to visuospatial memory, naming objects and cognitive flexibility, or the brain's ability to adapt to new information.

The brain functions measured by the tests typically decline as the body ages and more dramatically deteriorate in neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. The results "suggest a strong predictive effect of high musical activity throughout the lifespan on preserved cognitive functioning in advanced age," the study stated.

Half of the high-level musicians still played an instrument at the time of the study, but they didn't perform better on the cognitive tests than the other advanced musicians who had stopped playing years earlier. This suggests that the duration of musical study was more important than whether musicians continued playing at an advanced age, Hanna-Pladdy says.

"Based on previous research and our study results, we believe that both the years of musical participation and the age of acquisition are critical," Hanna-Pladdy says. "There are crucial periods in brain plasticity that enhance learning, which may make it easier to learn a musical instrument before a certain age and thus may have a larger impact on brain development."

The preliminary study was correlational, meaning that the higher cognitive performance of the musicians couldn't be conclusively linked to their years of musical study. Hanna-Pladdy, who has conducted additional studies on the subject, says more research is needed to explore that possible link.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, Alicia MacKay. The relation between instrumental musical activity and cognitive aging.. Neuropsychology, 2011; DOI: 10.1037/a0021895

Cite This Page:

American Psychological Association. "Childhood music lessons may provide lifelong boost in brain functioning." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110420112058.htm>.
American Psychological Association. (2011, April 20). Childhood music lessons may provide lifelong boost in brain functioning. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110420112058.htm
American Psychological Association. "Childhood music lessons may provide lifelong boost in brain functioning." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110420112058.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) Yale researchers tested 135 men and women, and it was only obese women who were deemed to have "impaired associative learning." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins