Music may keep you young

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London: It`s known that learning to play musical instruments make children smart and intelligent. Now, a new study has claimed it may also help people stay young.

Researchers at Northwestern University in the US found that musicians aged 45 to 65 excel in memory and hearing compared to non-musicians.

Lifelong musical training, according to the researchers, appears to confer advantages in at least two important functions known to decline with age — memory and the ability to hear speech in noise.

"Difficulty hearing speech in noise is among the most common complaints of older adults, but age-related hearing loss only partially accounts for this impediment that can lead to social isolation and depression," Study co-author Nina Kraus was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

"It`s well known that adults with virtually the same hearing profile can differ dramatically in their ability to hear speech in noise."

To find out why, the researchers at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory of Northwestern University tested 18 musicians and 19 non-musicians, aged 45 to 65, for speech in noise, auditory working memory, visual working memory and auditory temporal processing.

The musicians who began playing an instrument at age nine or earlier and consistently played an instrument throughout their lives bested the non-musician group in all but visual working memory, where both groups showed nearly identical ability.

Doctor Kraus said the experience of extracting meaningful sounds from a complex soundscape — and of remembering sound sequences enhances the development of auditory skills.

"The neural enhancements we see in musically-trained individuals are not just an amplifying or `volume knob` effect," she said, adding that playing music "engages their ability to extract relevant patterns, including the sound of their own instrument, harmonies and rhythms".

According to the researchers, who detailed their study in the journal PLoS One, music training "fine-tunes" the individual`s nervous system.

Dr Kraus said: "Sound is the stock in trade of the musician in much the same way that a painter of portraits is keenly attuned to the visual attributes of the paint that will convey his or her subject.

"If the materials that you work with are sound, then it is reasonable to suppose that all of your faculties involved with taking it in, holding it in memory and relating physically to it should be sharpened.

"Music experience bolsters the elements that combat age-related communication problems."

A University of Kansas study, published recently in the journal Neuropsychology, claimed that practising musical instruments as a child provides a boost to the person`s brain decades later.

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