Musical experience offsets memory-loss effects of aging

May 12, 2011

Lifelong musical training appears to offset some of the deleterious effects of aging — memory and the ability to hear speech in noise — researchers at Northwestern University have found.

The researchers tested 18 musicians and 19 non-musicians aged 45 to 65 for speech in noise, auditory working memory, visual working memory, and auditory temporal processing.

They found that musicians who began playing an instrument at age 9 or earlier and consistently played an instrument throughout their lives out-performed the non-musician group in all but visual working memory, where both groups showed nearly identical ability.

Ref: Alexandra Parbery-Clark, Dana L. Strait, Samira Anderson, Emily Hittner, Nina Kraus, Musical Experience and the Aging Auditory System: Implications for Cognitive Abilities and Hearing Speech in Noise, PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (5): e18082 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018082