We already know that musicians get all the girls, but now we’re now finding out they’ve got all the brains too.
According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, children who played a musical instrument – even if they have since given up the habit – are more likely to have sharper cognitive abilities as they age than those who never learned to play any type of musical instrument.
And while much research has already been conducted on the cognitive benefits of musical activity by children, this is the first study to examine whether those benefits can extend across a lifetime.
"The Relation Between Instrumental Musical Activity and Cognitive Aging" was published in the journal Neuropsychology and led by Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, PhD, and Alicia MacKay, PhD, from the University of Kansas Medical Center.
The researchers gathered a group of 70 healthy adults, age 60 to 83, and divided them into three groups based on their levels of musical experience.
The three groups 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.
Researchers found that musicians performed better on cognitive tests than those with no musical experience, and the longer a person had played an instrument, the sharper their brains.
According to the report, 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.
"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 Dr. Brenda Hanna-Pladdy. "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."