Playing A Musical Instrument As A Child Boosts Brain Power Into Old Age

03/02/2015 12:00 | Updated 20 May 2015

Young Boy playing a trumpet

Encouraging your children to play a musical instrument will boost their brain power into old age, according to new research.

Scientists found that older adults who had musical training before they were 14 years old were 20 per cent faster in identifying speech sounds than their non-musical peers.

The study, by Canada's Rotman Research Institute (RRI) at Baycrest Health Sciences, found that starting formal lessons on a musical instrument before the age of 14 and then continuing intense training for up to a decade enhances key areas in the brain that support speech recognition.

Gavin Bidelman, who led the study, told The Journal of Neuroscience: "Musical activities are an engaging form of cognitive brain training and we are now seeing robust evidence of brain plasticity from musical training not just in younger brains, but in older brains too.

"In our study we were able to predict how well older people classify or identify speech using EEG imaging.

"We saw a brain-behaviour response that was two to three times better in the older musicians compared to non-musicians peers.

"In other words, old musicians' brains provide a much more detailed, clean and accurate depiction of the speech signal, which is likely why they are much more sensitive and better at understanding speech."

The findings add to the belief that musical training not only gives young developing brains a cognitive boost, but that the benefits last into old age, counteracting cognitive decline.

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