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Classical 101

Playing Musical Instruments Makes You Think Fast, Saves Your Brain

You've known for a long time that engaging with classical music makes you smarter. Now there's evidence that playing a musical instrument can make you quicker on your feet than folks who don't play instruments, according to Pacific Standard magazine. Moreover, the evidence also suggests that practicing a musical instrument can "slow or prevent" some types of age-related cognitive decline. A study conducted by researchers at Scotland's University of St. Andrew's tested 36 amateur musicians' ability to perform certain cognitive tasks, based on the total number of hours the musicians had accumulated over their lifetimes practicing their instruments. According to the study published in Neuropsychologia, the researchers found that instrumentalists who had logged the most practice hours, 5,000 hours or more, performed faster and better than non-musicians on two standarized task tests.  The results of the study also suggest that

... higher levels of musical training might result in more efficient information processing in general (indicated by faster overall speed across tasks without accuracy tradeoff)

Finally, the researchers posited that, "If active engagement in musical activity, including extensive instrumental practice, can potentially increase frontal brain mediated (sic) error and conflict monitoring functions, such activity could be used as a powerful intervention that may remediate or slow age related (sic) cognitive decline in frontal brain functions." So, if you want to stay sharper longer, you might want to dust off that violin or tune up the piano. Your brain will thank you for it. Read more: 

  • Improved Effectiveness of Performance Monitoring in Amateur Instrumental Musicians (Neuropsychologia)
  • Want Quick, Accurate Thinking? Ask a Musician (PS)