Study: To stay smart, play a musical instrument

Posted on: September 27, 2013

“Newly published research suggests a low-tech way of retaining our mental agility: Learn to play a musical instrument,” writes Tom Jacobs in Tuesday’s (9/24) Pacific Standard. “People who spend many hours in the practice room not only process information unusually efficiently, but they also do a superior job of not letting occasional errors derail them.” The findings come from a research team led by cognitive neuroscientist Ines Jentzsch of the University of St. Andrews, who claim the research “could promote musical activity as a realistic intervention to slow or even prevent (one type of) age-related decline.” The experiment involved 36 young adults divided into four groups: “Musicians who had accumulated at least 5,000 hours of practice; those who had clocked 2,000 to 5,000 hours; [those] who had practiced for 200 to 2,000 hours; and non-musicians. After answering a series of questions, all the participants took part in two standard cognitive tests,” a Stroop task and a Simon task. “People with more musical training responded faster than those with little or no training, with no loss in accuracy.” The researchers “point out that their participants were amateur musicians. Even those who logged the most practice time did not approach the hours put in by a longtime professional.”

Posted September 27, 2013