Sunday, 1 May 2011

Music when you are young helps when you are old!

Did you know music study as a youngster helps the brain when it gets old? We now have research to prove it.
There has been a lot of research done on how children who study music do better in school than those who don't but this is the first research I have seen which relates early music study to old age.  Even if the person had not played an instrument in decades the benefits still remained.

The following article was printed in the New Zealand Herald 23rd April, 2011. It is fascinating.

Hours spent practicing the piano as a child could pay off in more ways than one, scientists have found.  Not only will it lead to you mastering the instrument, but it will also provide a boost to your brain decades later, it is claimed. 
Even if you no longer play into adulthood, it will keep the mind sharper as you enter old age.  The researchers found that pensioners who had piano, flute, clarinet or other lessons as a youngster did better on intelligence tests. 
“Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of ageing.” said lading researcher Dr Brenda Hanna-Pladdy at the University of Kansas Medical Centre.
 “Since studying and 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.”  The study, published by the American Psychological Association in the journal Neuropsychology recruited 70 healthy adults aged 60 to 83 who were divided into three 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. 
While much research had been done on the cognitive benefits of musical activity by children, this was the first study to examine whether those benefits could extend across a lifetime, said Dr Hanna-Pladdy, who conducted the study with her colleague Alicia MacKay. 
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 did not show any evidence of Alzheimer’s disease.  All were amateurs who began playing and instrument when they were about 10. 
More than half played the piano while about a quarter had studied woodwind instruments such as the flute or clarinet.  Smaller numbers performed with stringed instruments, percussion or brass.  The high-level musicians who had studied the longest performed the best on cognitive tests, followed by the low-level musicians and non-musicians.

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