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Learning an instrument boosts brain power

Music has long been touted as one of the most effective aids to learning with studies regularly suggesting that children will find their academic abilities improve as they master an instrument.
And now research from the University of Kansas has suggested that learning to play at a young age will have an impact on your cognitive skills as you grow older.
The study discovered that pensioners who had piano, flute, clarinet or other music lessons as a child did better on intelligence tests than those without any musical skills, The Telegraph reports.
“Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of ageing,” said lead researcher Dr Brenda Hanna-Pladdy at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
“Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive declines as we get older.”
The research, which was published in the journal Neuropsychology, found that musicians performed significantly better on a number of cognitive tasks than their non-musical peers.
Researchers noted that all of the musicians who took part in the study were amateurs that had begun playing an instrument when they were around ten years of age. More than half of these learned to play the piano, while about a quarter had studied woodwind instruments.
In addition to this, a small number had previously played stringed, percussion or brass instruments. Those who had studied music for the longest were found to perform the best on the cognitive tests, followed by the low-level musicians and finally the non-musicians.
“Based on previous research and our study results, we believe that both the years of musical participation and the age of acquisition are critical,” Dr Hanna-Pladdy said.
“There are crucial periods in brain plasticity that enhance learning, which may make it easier to learn a musical instrument.”

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