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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. Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, from Emory University (Georgia, USA), and colleagues studied 70 musicians and non-musicians, ages 59 to 80 years, who were evaluated by neuropsychological tests and surveyed about general lifestyle activities.

The musicians scored higher on tests of mental acuity, visual-spatial judgment, verbal memory and recall, and motor dexterity. The team also found that sustaining musical activity during advanced age might enhance thinking ability, neutralizing any negative impact of age and even lack of education. Writing that: “Recent and past musical activity, but not general lifestyle activities, predicted variability across both verbal and visuospatial domains in aging,” the study authors submit that: “These findings . . . imply that early age of musical acquisition, sustained and maintained during advanced age, may enhance cognitive functions and buffer age and education influences.”


  1. Hanna-Pladdy B, Gajewski B. “Recent and Past Musical Activity Predicts Cognitive Aging Variability: Direct Comparison with General Lifestyle Activities.” Front Hum Neurosci. 2012;6:198.