Continuing to play a musical instrument, particularly the piano, into later life has been linked with a sharper brain in a new study.
Researchers found that the benefits included an improved memory and a better ability to solve complex tasks, known as executive functions.
The researchers, including those at the University of Exeter, UK, reviewed data from more than a thousand adults over the age of 40 years to see the effect of playing a musical instrument or singing in a choir on brain health.
Their work also suggested that singing too was linked to better brain health, although the team said this may also be due to the social factors of being part of a choir or group. Their findings are published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
To determine whether musicality helped keep the brain sharp in later life, the researchers reviewed participants’ musical experience and lifetime exposure to music, along with their results of cognitive testing. The participants were a part of a larger PROTECT study, which has been running for 10 years and includes over 25,000 people.
“Overall, we think that being musical could be a way of harnessing the brain’s agility and resilience, known as cognitive reserve,” said study author, Anne Corbett, Professor of Dementia Research at the University of Exeter.