Playing a musical instrument or singing is linked to better memory in old age

Research has shown that playing a musical instrument or joining a choir is linked to better memory and thinking skills in old age.

The piano was particularly associated with a better brain in over-40s in the University of Exeter study, which assessed data from more than a thousand adults and looked at how much experience people had participating in music.

The scientists examined their brain health, including mental processes that help with planning, concentrating, remembering and juggling tasks – known as executive functions – and found that those who played an instrument scored higher.

Singing was also linked to better brain health, but the researchers said social factors of being part of a group may also play a role.

Anne Corbett, professor of dementia research at the University of Exeter, said: “A number of studies have looked at the effect of music on brain health. Our Protect study has given us a unique opportunity to investigate the relationship between cognitive performance and music in a large cohort of older adults.

“Overall, we think that being musical can be a way to tap into the brain’s agility and resilience, known as cognitive reserve.

“While more research is needed to investigate this relationship, our findings indicate that promoting music education would be a valuable part of public health initiatives to promote protective lifestyles for brain health, just as encouraging older adults adults to return to music later in life.

“There is considerable evidence for the benefits of music group activities for people with dementia, and this approach could be expanded as part of a healthy aging package for older adults to enable them to proactively reduce their risk and improve the health of the elderly. promote the brain.”

Caroline Scates, deputy director of admiral nurse development at Dementia UK, said: “The results of this study are positive and reflect similar research into the benefits of both listening to and playing music for people with dementia.

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“Music can provide a valuable form of communication for people with dementia, including listening to music that the person can connect with even in the later stages of the condition. The ability to make or play music – by singing or playing an instrument – ​​can persist even when people with dementia have lost other skills and means of communication.

“If you know someone with dementia who enjoys singing or playing an instrument, it may be helpful to keep these instruments or sheet music on hand so he or she can play or read.”