According to a recent study, playing a musical instrument, singing and reading sheet music can maintain brain health as we age
A recent report by International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry has highlighted the many brainy benefits of playing a musical instrument.
Regular practice of an instrument and reading sheet music can help sustain a good working memory and the ability to solve complex tasks. Researchers believe that playing a musical instrument should be considered as part of a new lifestyle approach to protect brain health.
The results were part of a wider study of how the brain ages and why some people develop dementia.
More than 1,100 people aged over 40 participated. Those who engaged with music in some way were compared with those who had never.
The results showed that individuals who played musical instruments performed better cognitively, which they believe could be because of the “multiple cognitive demands” required to play a musical instrument. The study also showed that people who read music regularly had better numerical memory.
Lead author, Prof Anne Corbett told the BBC, “Our brain is a muscle like anything else and it needs to be exercised, and learning to read music is a bit like learning a new language, it’s challenging.”
Which instruments are the most beneficial?
Piano or keyboard came out on top, while picking up a brass or woodwind instrument also produced good results. Singing was also notably helpful, but this could be due to the social aspects of participating in a choir group.
Interestingly, those who just listened to music didn’t show improved cognitive health.
“Certainly this confirms and cements on a much larger scale what we already know about the benefits of music,” said Prof Anne Corbett. “Playing an instrument has a particularly big effect, and people who continue to play into an older age saw an additional benefit.”
The experiment didn’t test whether picking up an instrument later in life was good for you brain, but researchers say it would still be “valuable” and “very beneficial”.