Music Making May Help in Old Age

by | 11 May, 2012

Here is an interesting article that arrived this morning from the World Science website about music making that may help keep the mind in tune in our old age thanks to Edward I. Pollak, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychology, West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

Long­time play­ing of a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment may help keep your mind sharp as old age sets in, a study has found. Re­search­ers Bren­da Hanna-Pladdy and Ali­cia Mac­Kay at the Un­ivers­ity of Kan­sas Med­i­cal Cen­ter sur­veyed 70 healthy peo­ple aged 60 to 83, giv­ing them a series of neu­ropsy­cho­logical tests.

Those with at least 10 years of mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ence had “bet­ter per­for­mance in non­ver­bal mem­o­ry… and ex­ec­u­tive pro­cess­es” com­pared to non-mu­si­cians, the in­ves­ti­ga­tors wrote. Their find­ings, which they de­scribe as pre­lim­i­nary, are pub­lished in the April 4 ad­vance on­line is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Neu­ro­psy­chol­ogy.

The re­sults, they added, “sug­gest a strong pre­dic­tive ef­fect of high mu­si­cal ac­ti­vity through­out the life span on pre­served cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing in ad­vanced age.”

If the find­ings are con­firmed, music-making may join phys­ical fitness, strong edu­cation and pro­fes­sional car­eers as fac­tors, (see World Science) found to con­tri­bute to high­er ment­al test scores in old age.

It has al­ready been known that “in­ten­sive re­pet­i­tive mu­si­cal prac­tice can lead to bi­lat­er­al cor­ti­cal re­or­gan­iz­a­tion,” or wide­spread changes in brain wir­ing, Hanna-Pladdy and Mac­Kay wrote. But it has been un­clear, they added, wheth­er mu­si­cal abil­i­ties “trans­fer to nonmu­si­cal cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties” through­out life.

The peo­ple in the sur­vey group were matched on age, educa­t­ion, his­to­ry of phys­i­cal ex­er­cise; mu­si­cians were matched on age of in­stru­mental ac­qui­si­tion and years of for­mal mu­si­cal train­ing, the sci­en­tists not­ed.