Those childhood music lessons keep our minds sharper as people age, even if we no longer play the instrument. A study recruited 70 healthy adults aged 60 - 83 who were divided into groups based on their levels of musical experience.
The musicians performed better on several cognitive tests than individuals who had never studied an instrument or learned how to read music.
Psychologist Brenda Hanna-Pladdy says "Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of aging. Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive declines as we get older".
The high-level musicians who had studied the longest performed the best on cognitive tests, followed by the low-level musicians and then non-musicians, revealing a trend relating to years of musical practice.
The high-level musicians had statistically significant higher scores than the non-musicians on tests relating to naming objects, demonstrating the brain's ability to adapt to new information.
The research is clear: start your child on an instrument today!
Hanna-Pladdy, B. & MacKay, A. (2011). The relation between instrumental musical activity and cognitive aging. Neuropsychology.