Singing or Playing Music Throughout Life is Linked with Better Brain Health While You Age

Engaging in musical activities throughout life has been associated not only with a sense of enjoyment and emotional well-being but also with tangible cognitive benefits, as highlighted by the PROTECT study. The research, open to individuals aged 40 and above, examined data from over a thousand participants, revealing that playing a musical instrument or singing can positively impact brain health. Beyond the emotional rewards and the joy of musical expression, the study found a correlation between musical engagement and enhanced memory and cognitive speed in individuals aged 40 and above. The study, which has been ongoing for a decade and boasts over 25,000 participants, underscores the long-term cognitive advantages of musical involvement. Specifically, playing a musical instrument, with a particular emphasis on the piano, was associated with improved memory and executive function—the ability to solve complex tasks. The findings suggest that the cognitive benefits extend further when individuals continue to play music into their later years.

Additionally, singing was also linked to better brain health, potentially attributed to the social aspects of participating in a choir or musical group. Professor Anne Corbett of the University of Exeter emphasized the need for more research but suggested that promoting musical education could be a valuable component of public health initiatives aimed at fostering brain health in aging populations. Stuart Douglas, a 78-year-old accordion player, exemplifies the positive impact of lifelong musical engagement. Having played the accordion since childhood, Douglas is an active member of the Cober Valley Accordion Band and the Cornish Division of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. He attests to the role of music in maintaining cognitive health and recounts the positive effects witnessed when playing at memory cafes for individuals with memory loss. The study was inspired by Gaia Vetere, a University of Exeter Medicine student and pianist, who recognized the potential cognitive benefits of music and initiated the research within the PROTECT study framework. The study’s results, published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, suggest that incorporating musical activities into one’s life may serve as a proactive measure to promote brain health in older adults.

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