Playing an Instrument or Singing Promotes Brain Health Into Old Age

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Band geeks and choir kids now have a new reason to keep making music as they get on in years: It may help promote brain health as they age.

In a new study, researchers examined cognitive test results for about 1,000 adults who were 68 years older on average, most of whom currently or previously played a musical instrument or sang in a choir.

People who played instruments or sang in choirs — even if it was only for a few years decades ago — scored much better on tests of memory, reasoning, and executive function than the study participants without any prior musical experience, according to study results published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

“We believe that playing an instrument or taking part in singing activities challenges the brain and builds connections in the brain that help it work better and protect it from damage later on,” says senior study author Anne Corbett, PhD, a professor of dementia research at the University of Exeter in England.

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