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Music is a form of brain training

26th April 2011

People between the ages of 60 and 80 who play music may avoid developing Alzheimer's disease as a result, according to a recent US study.

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People who had played an instrument for more than 10 years fared better overall on cognitive tests than people who had not.

Lead researcher Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, a clinical neuropsychologist at Emory University in the US, said that the number of years an individual played music was the biggest predicting factor in the study.

She said that because of the formality of musical training, the brain changed in a particular fashion when a person studied music.

People who had the highest level of musical experience (which the researchers estimated to be 10 years or more) scored higher on visuospatial memory tests than the less trained musicians and non-musicians.

The results of the study were also true even for people who had not played music for several years.

Hanna-Pladdy said there was a scientific interest in identifying activities that could help prevent age-related declines and even delay the onset of a disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease.

She said she believed that the brain might possibly create alternative pathways that would serve as backups in the event of age-related cognitive decline.

For the study, the researchers gathered 70 subjects whose ages ranged between 60 and 80, all of whom were included in a university database.

The researchers divided the study subjects into three groups: non-musicians, musicians with less than 10 years of musical training, and musicians with more than 10 years of musical training.

Hanna-Pladdy said that the cost of caring for older individuals with cognitive decline or dementia was enormous, and that she hoped other studies would follow that would highlight activities people could undertake in order to preserve the health of their brains and delay or even prevent the onset of degenerative brain diseases.

She said that music was a challenging cognitive exercise, making people's brains fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of ageing.

 

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