Music for the Brain

If you remember having to practice scales when other children were outside playing ball, here’s a consolation: Grown-up child musicians showed quicker response to sound, which helps them interpret speech as adults. At Northwestern University’s Auditory Neuroscience Lab, numerous studies have shown a link between early music education and language aptitude, hearing and learning ability, and memory. The latest study tested 44 adults ages 55 to 76 who had had music lessons for at least four years as children. And it didn’t seem to matter that they hadn’t played in the meantime.

Should you pony up for piano lessons for your youngster? It would seem to be an excellent idea, as those who tested best in the latest study had four to 14 years of music training as youths. It’s less clear whether we can catch up later if we didn’t play an instrument early on. Scientists haven’t studied that question as extensively. So far the results indicate that learning and practicing music, even at advanced ages, may help memory, listening and motor skills.

So rosin your bow or empty your spit valve, and limber up your fingers. You’re never too young (or too old) to reap the benefits of playing a musical instrument.

Do you want to boost your brainpower but don't have an instrument in sight? Try Ron White's five memory training tips.


Betsy Simnacher is a freelance writer who has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. She lives in the suburbs of Dallas.

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