Lifetime study finds playing a musical instrument as an adult can boost your memory
July 1, 2021, 13:18
Studies have shown that musicians seem to have more “connected” brains, and that children who play have “better memory and attention span”. Music is also a trusted and proven tool for relieving symptoms of memory disorders such as dementia.
Now a new study by examining the relationship between musical creation and memory performance over a lifetime, found that people who began performing in adulthood performed better on memory recall tasks in their middle or old age.
In 1957, in Wisconsin, more than 10,000 high school graduates completed a survey about their school, family income, and future life and career goals. Their engagement with music was noted through graduate directory entries and whether they were members of musical ensembles.
The survey was the first of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study questionnaires, which were given to the same group of high school graduates in the years 1964, 1975, 1993, 2004 and 2011, to track their responses over time.
Recently, public health researchers at Stony Brook University requested access to the data for analysis and used it to determine whether music affects memory later in life.
Read more: Kids who make music have better memory and attention span, study finds
Of the participants, 38 percent played music in high school and 21 percent played music as adults.
The researchers refined the data provided between 2004 and 2011, when participants were asked by phone or in person to perform a series of memory tasks.
In one task, interviewers gave participants a list of words to remember, distracted them with other questions, and then about 12 minutes later asked them to repeat the list.
During the interview, participants were also asked if they played a musical instrument in school or later in life. 55 percent had never gambled as adults and the rest had gambled at some point after high school, while only eight percent had played continuously throughout their lives.
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Musicians performed better in memory recall tasks. Understandably, some decline in memory was seen between the ages of 65 and 72, but average memory recall test scores were higher overall for those who had done music. The more they played, the better their test scores.
In the study, the researchers said they were surprised to see that, unlike some previous studies, it was not just people who played music from a young age who felt positive effects on the body. memory throughout their life.
“The benefits of engaging in a musical instrument seem to develop throughout life,” they add.
The researchers admit that there were some limitations to the study, so it is difficult to prove an absolute link between musical creation and the ability to remember.
Musicians may have performed better on tests because of their lifestyle, as they tend to have more access to social groups through orchestras and choirs, or may lead more active lives. Both are factors that could influence memory ability.
However, the study offers a new perspective on the effects of musical creation throughout life, giving us a new understanding of why strong memory is not limited to musicians who have been fortunate enough to perform. of their instrument from an early age.