Musicians have sharper minds, study says

30 September 2013, 09:48

Playing a musical instrument could sharpen your mind and even help delay decline in mental abilities, according to new research from St Andrew's University.

Researchers measured the behavioural and brain responses of musicians when performing simple musical tasks. Even playing an instrument at a moderate level improved a person's ability to detect errors and adjust their responses.

Musicians also responded faster than those without musical training. Leader of the study, psychologist Dr Ines Jentzsch, said the results were not surprising, as musicians need to be constantly aware of their performances, continuing to play even if they slip up.

"Our study shows that even moderate levels of musical activity can benefit brain functioning," she said. "Our findings could have important implications as the processes involved are amongst the first to be affected by ageing, as well as a number of mental illnesses such as depression. The research suggests that musical activity could be used as an effective intervention to slow, stop or even reverse age or illness-related decline in mental functioning."

The study, published in the journal Neuropsychologia, builds on previous work showing the benefits of musical activity on mental and physical well-being.