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Side view of a brain. In blue, the areas affected by the increase in grey matter in the elderly as a result of music practice. © UNIGE – Damien Marie

A new study has shown that practicing and listening to music can delay cognitive decline in seniors by producing more gray matter in the brain.

Over 100 retired people who had never practiced music before were enrolled in piano and music awareness training for six months. The results showed an increase in working memory performance by 6% and a total reduction in gray matter loss in the piano-playing group.

The scientists from the University of Geneva wanted to see how much music training could prevent the loss of working memory associated with age-related cognitive decline.


‘‘We wanted people whose brains did not yet show any traces of plasticity linked to musical learning. Indeed, even a brief learning experience in the course of one’s life can leave imprints on the brain, which would have biased our results’’

— Damien Marie, first author of the study

Scientists believe that musical interventions cannot rejuvenate the brain, but they can prevent aging in specific regions. The brain loses neuroplasticity as it ages, but musical interventions promote brain plasticity and cognitive reserve. 

Practicing music can improve various functions of the brain, including memory, language, spatial reasoning, and attention. This is because playing an instrument requires the brain to process multiple sensory inputs simultaneously, leading to increased neural connectivity and plasticity.

Musical training can strengthen the cognitive processes involved in problem-solving, creativity, and emotional regulation.

Regular music practice can have lasting positive effects on brain health and function. Previous studies have shown that musical training can enhance language skills and improve memory and attention span, especially in children.

Learning to play an instrument also requires discipline, perseverance, and focus, which can transfer to other areas of life. In fact, many successful individuals in various fields, such as business and medicine, credit their musical training for their professional success. Therefore, it is evident that playing an instrument not only offers enjoyment and artistic expression but also provides significant benefits to brain development and overall well-being.

Read More > Practicing and Listening to Music Can Slow Cognitive Decline in Healthy Seniors by Producing More Gray Matter

Read the study > Music interventions in 132 healthy older adults enhance cerebellar grey matter and auditory working memory, despite general brain atrophy

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