Playing music in childhood could help keep a sharp mind in old age


  • A quarter (26%) of children aged 8 to 16 play a musical instrument in France.
  • They would also be 25% to want to do it.

All those long hours after school trying to learn an instrument that you will give up a few years later, once your childhood is over… Simple distant memories that were of no use to you? Don’t be so sure.

According to researchers from the University of Edinburgh, people who played a musical instrument for a long time in their childhood would have better cognitive abilities when they were older. The results of their work, relayed in The Guardianhold regardless of socioeconomic status, current health, and education of participants when they were young.

336 participants followed

Of the 336 participants in this study, 117 said they had played a musical instrument during childhood and adolescence, mainly the piano, but also accordion, bagpipes, guitar and violin. Each was tested on multiple physical and mental functions as they aged. In particular, they took a test of cognitive abilities that they had all taken at the age of 11: a list of questions testing verbal reasoning, spatial awareness and numerical analysis. Statistical models were also used to look for associations between playing a musical instrument over a long period of time and the evolution of thinking skills from 11 years to 70 years.

Finally, the researchers also relied on the results of the “Lothian Birth Cohort 1936”, a extensive investigation 1947 Scottish report on mental health.

Music has probable benefits

Thanks to all this data, scientists have discovered a link between learning a musical instrument during youth and improving thinking skills later in life. However, they cannot yet prove that playing an instrument in childhood systematically induces a sharper mind in old age.

However, this study provides new evidence to support the hypothesis that playing a musical instrument has long-term cognitive benefits.

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