Playing a musical instrument or singing is very effective for preventing brain disorders and cognitive deterioration associated with aging, according to a study carried out by researchers at the University of Granada (UGR). The Spanish team of researchers carried out the first systematic review of the studies performed on the effect of musical practice on aging brain and associated cognitive processes.
Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study shows that playing a musical instrument or singing involves multiple sensory systems, high-level cognitive processes, and the motor system, the UGR said in a statement.
Rafael Román-Caballero, of the UGR Department of Experimental Psychology and main author of the study, mentioned that improvements are not restricted to skills directly trained in musical practice; for example, auditory skills or manual dexterity. It also reaches other cognitive skills relevant to other activities; in addition music would make the person more efficient at the time of perceiving, and respond to a stimulus of the environment; perform mental operations; and control and regulate aspects such as behavior or attention.
Among the research included in the review, two types of work are distinguished: those that compare older musicians (≥ 59 years old) with older people without musical experience, and others in which older people without previous musical notions are musically trained and compared with older people who did not receive the training.
The results show that in both kinds of studies, with musicians and in those of late training programs, musical practice is associated with cognitive and cerebral improvements and healthier neurocognitive aging.
The improvements appear in skills directly trained with musical practice (i.e. auditory skills), but also in others (such as memory, control capacity or processing speed).