Music to my ears: Singing is linked to better memory in older age

New research has found that singing or playing a musical instrument can better the brain health of people over 40.

A new study from Exeter university, which was published last week, highlighted that people who join a choir or play a musical instrument have a better chance of retaining their memory and thinking skills in older age.

woman holding microphone

The research, which reviewed data from more than a thousand adults and looked at how much experience the people had in participating in music, found the piano was especially associated with a better brain in those aged 40 and over.

Scientists from the university investigated people’s brain health, and looked at mental processes that help in planning, focusing, and remembering, which is known as executive function, and found that individuals who played an instrument scored more highly.

In addition, the study, which can be found in full here, also discovered that singing was linked to better brain health, but researchers claimed the social factors of being part of a group could also play a role.

‘A number of studies have looked at the effect of music on brain health,’ Anne Corbett, professor of dementia research at the University of Exeter said. ‘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.’

Professor Corbett added: ‘Overall, we think that being musical could be a way of harnessing the brain’s agility and resilience, known as cognitive reserve.

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

‘There is considerable evidence for the benefit of music group activities for individuals with dementia, and this approach could be extended as part of a healthy ageing package of older adults to enable them to proactively reduce their risk and to promote brain health.’

Image: Forja2 Mx

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