Is making music associated with better cognitive functioning?

D. Mansens, D. J. H. Deeg, and H. C. Comijs. The association between singing and/or playing a musical instrument and cognitive functions in older adults. Aging & Mental Health. Published online: 19 May 2017

Objectives: Cognitive decline happens to everyone when aging, but to some more than others. Studies with children, adults, and professional musicians suggest that making music could be associated with better cognitive functioning. In older adults however, this association is less well investigated, which is therefore the aim of this study.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study data from 1101 participants aged 64 and older from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam were used. Multivariable linear regression analyses were performed to test the association between making music and cognitive functioning and time spent making music and cognitive functioning. ANCOVA analyses were performed to differentiate between participants who made no music, only sang, only played an instrument or both sang and played an instrument in terms of cognitive functioning.

Results: Making music was significantly positively associated with letter fluency, learning and attention/short-term memory. Time spent making music yielded no significant results. The ANCOVA analyses showed higher scores for participants who only played an instrument compared to participants who made no music on learning, working memory and processing speed. For processing speed the instrument only group also had a higher score than participants who only sang.

Discussion: Making music at least once every two weeks and especially playing a musical instrument, is associated with better attention, episodic memory and executive functions. The results suggest that making music might be a potential protective factor for cognitive decline; however, to support this notion a longitudinal study design is needed.


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