According to a recent study conducted by experts at the University of Exeter, engaging in music might be good for your brain health as you age.
The researchers who are part of the PROTECT study looked at data from over a thousand individuals aged 40 and older. The PROTECT study is an online research effort which was used to study this age group. The goal was to understand how playing a musical instrument or singing in a choir affects brain health. The PROTECT study, which has been ongoing for a decade and has over 25,000 participants, served as a valuable source of information.
The team looked at participants’ musical experiences and lifetime exposure to music. They also considered the results of cognitive tests to determine if being musically inclined contributes to maintaining a sharp mind as people age. The findings of their work are presented in a paper which covers the relationship between cognitive trajectories and playing a musical instrument based on the analysis of a UK-based group of seniors. The paper was published in a reputed journal, the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
The study discovered that playing a musical instrument, especially the piano, is associated with better memory and improved ability to solve complex tasks, also known as executive function. Moreover, the research suggests that singing is also linked to improved brain health, although being part of a choir or group may contribute to this positive effect.
Professor Anne Corbett, a specialist in Dementia Research who works at the University of Exeter, mentioned that several studies have examined how music affects brain health. She stated that their PROTECT study provided a distinctive chance to investigate the connection between cognitive performance and music in a large group of older adults. She suggested that being musical might serve as a means to tap into the brain’s agility and resilience, commonly mentioned as cognitive reserve.
While there is a need for more research to delve deeper into this connection, the findings indicate that providing more musical education could be a valuable part of protecting brain health through public health initiatives. Encouraging older adults to return to music in later life is also suggested. Professor Corbett emphasized that evidence supports the benefits of music group activities for individuals with dementia, proposing an extension of such approaches to promote healthy aging.
Stuart Douglas, a 78-year-old accordion player from Cornwall, shared his experience. He has played the accordion regularly since childhood. He plays it regularly with the Cornish Division of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society and also with the Cober Valley Accordion Band. Stuart believes that his continuing with music into his senior years has played an important role in maintaining his brain health.
The PROTECT study is entirely conducted online and welcomes new participants aged 40 and over. For more information, you can visit http://www.protectstudy.org.uk.