Having the ability to play an instrument is a great gift; it also appears to improve your cognitive health in your later years, even if you’ve stopped playing according to a study in the journal Neuropsychology. We know music relieves stress and everyone recognizes that stress is terrible for both your physical and mental health. Beyond this, there’s plenty of science that supports the idea of music being good for you and there’s increasing interest among the medical community in keeping the brain as healthy and strong as the body.
The latest research in the area of music and the brain was conducted at the University of Kansas Medical Center and included 70 healthy (with similar fitness/education levels, and free of Alzheimer’s disease) adults who’d been recruited to participate. The subjects were from 60 to 83 years old and were broken into groups based on levels of musical experience from no musical training, one to nine years of music lessons, or at last 10 years studying a musical instrument.
Over half the subjects who had studied music were piano players, another quarter played woodwind instruments and the final quarter played string instruments, percussion or brass. The subjects were given a few cognitive tests, and not surprisingly, the musicians of the group performed better on these tests than those who had never studied or didn’t know how to read music.
When compared to the non-musicians of the study, those who had lots (10 years) of musical training had far higher scores on the cognitive testing. The benefits of musical training were still evident even in those who had stopped playing.
Intriguing that the brain function the team was measuring tends to go down with age.
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The Benefits Of Playing A Musical Instrument At Any Age Continued…
It may be that musical ability or learning stays with you and acts as a challenging mental activity that makes your brain sharper, more able to deal with the changes of aging. Learning an instrument takes years of study and practice, and might just create alternative connections in the brain that help to make up for cognitive declines that happen naturally as we get older.
But if you’re older, you can still get a number of health benefits from starting an instrument. Making music can lower your blood pressure, slow your heart rate, ease stress as well as anxiety and depression. There’s also more evidence than before that making music helps the immune response of the body.
As we’ve mentioned here recently, music has been used by therapists to help patients with dementia feel better. Music is familiar, evoking comfortable, happier memories. Music also has a close relationship with our unconscious emotions. It’s engaging and emotionally powerful and can have strong effects on the way we think, how we feel and even our physiology.
What’s great is that anyone, of any age or ability, can make music and get the benefit. You don’t have to be good or be a kid to take lessons. Musical study makes your brain work and this may be just the thing to help address the challenges of aging.