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Musicians' Brains Might Have an Edge on Aging
Date:8/2/2012

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- It's been said that music soothes the savage beast, but if you're the one playing the instrument it might benefit your brain.

A growing body of evidence suggests that learning to play an instrument and continuing to practice and play it may offer mental benefits throughout life. Hearing has also been shown to be positively affected by making music.

The latest study, published in the July issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that musical instrument training may reduce the effects of mental decline associated with aging. The research found that older adults who learned music in childhood and continued to play an instrument for at least 10 years outperformed others in tests of memory and cognitive ability.

It also revealed that sustaining musical activity during advanced age may enhance thinking ability, neutralizing any negative impact of age and even lack of education. It's unclear, however, whether starting an instrument in adulthood provides any mental advantages.

"Behaviors can change your brain," said study author Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, an assistant professor of neurology, radiology and imaging sciences at Emory University, in Atlanta.

The study confirms and refines findings from previous research published April 2011 in the journal Neuropsychology.

In childhood, when the brain is still developing, it seems that learning a musical instrument and continuing to play it for at least a decade or more may lay the groundwork for benefits later in life, Hanna-Pladdy said. But it's also valuable to then pick up the instrument in middle age and start playing again, she noted.

In this study, 70 musicians and non-musicians aged 59 to 80 were evaluated by neuropsychological tests and surveyed about general lifestyle activities. The musicians scored higher on tests of mental acuity, visual-spati
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