Playing a musical instrument throughout one’s life is associated with enhanced brain health in older age, according to a groundbreaking study conducted by experts at the prestigious University of Exeter.
Researchers involved in the PROTECT study, an online research initiative open to individuals aged 40 and above, examined data from over a thousand participants above the age of 40 to assess the impact of playing a musical instrument or singing in a choir on brain health. The PROTECT study, which has been underway for a decade, has attracted over 25,000 participants.
The team carefully analyzed the participants’ musical experiences and lifetime exposure to music, in addition to cognitive test results, in order to determine the potential benefits of musicality in maintaining cognitive sharpness during later stages of life.
The findings revealed that engaging in playing a musical instrument, particularly the piano, is linked to improved memory and enhanced problem-solving abilities, also known as executive function. Furthermore, the study suggests that singing is also associated with better brain health, although this may be influenced by the social aspects of participating in a choir or group.
Professor Anne Corbett, a renowned Dementia Research expert at the University of Exeter, commented, “Numerous studies have explored the impact of music on brain health. Our PROTECT study has provided us with a unique opportunity to investigate the relationship between cognitive performance and music within a large cohort of older adults. Overall, we believe that being musically inclined could harness the brain’s agility and resilience, also known as cognitive reserve.”
She further added, “While further research is necessary to delve deeper into this relationship, our findings indicate that promoting musical education should be an essential part of public health initiatives aimed at promoting a protective lifestyle for brain health. Encouraging older adults to re-engage with music later in life could also prove invaluable. There is substantial evidence pointing towards the benefits of music group activities for individuals with dementia, and this approach could be expanded as part of a comprehensive healthy aging program to empower older adults in actively reducing their risk and promoting brain health.”