Research by The University of Edinburgh shows that taking up a musical instrument in childhood and adolescence is associated with improved thinking skills in older age.
People with more experience of playing a musical instrument showed greater lifetime improvement on a test of cognitive ability than those with less or no experience. Importantly, this was the case even when accounting for a person’s socio-economic status, years of education, childhood cognitive ability and health status in older age.
The study participants were part of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 – a group of individuals from Edinburgh and the Lothians, born in 1936, who took part in the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947.
The test of cognitive ability – taken at age 11 (1947) and repeated at 70 (2006) – included questions requiring verbal reasoning, spatial awareness, and numerical analysis.
Out of the 366 study participants, 117 reported some experience of playing a musical instrument – mostly during childhood and adolescence. The most commonly played instrument was the piano, but many other instruments were played too, such as accordion, bagpipes, guitar and violin.
The findings provide some of the first evidence that playing an instrument is associated with small, but detectable, cognitive benefits over a person’s lifetime.
Researchers say the results cannot prove musical training boosts cognitive ability because factors not included in the study – such as other activities or parental influence – could have played their part. The research team, however, intends to build upon these findings as it investigates which factors might contribute to healthy brain ageing.
The University of Edinburgh: https://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2022/music-in-childhood-boosts-brains-in-later-life
Psychological Science/SAGE Journals: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/09567976221092726
|TARGET GROUP:||YOUNG PEOPLE & ADULTS|
|AGE:||11-70 YEARS OLD|
|TYPE OF STUDY:||ACADEMIC RESEARCH|
|PERIOD OF STUDY:||59 YEARS|