Jul 17, 2011

The Discovery Files: Golden Y-Ears

A growing body of research finds musical training gives students learning advantages in the classroom. Now a Northwestern University study finds musical training can benefit the grandparents, too, by offsetting some of the deleterious effects of aging.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Music--the Anti-aging Supplement.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

A Northwestern University study shows that musical training could have beneficial effects in your later years. Groups of musicians and non-musicians, ages 45 thru 65 were tested. The team found those with lifelong musical training were better at recalling what they heard and could more easily discern speech in a noisy environment.

According to the researchers, the musicians train themselves to be able to remember complicated sound sequences, and to extract meaningful sounds from a complex soundscape--hearing their own instrument in a symphony and working with harmonies and rhythms.

As we age, our memory declines. At the same time, being able to hear a single voice in a crowded room often becomes next to impossible. The team believes a lifetime of musical training 'fine-tunes' the nervous system, sharpening our abilities to take in sound, hold it in memory, and process it. All of the musicians tested have been playing since age 9 at the latest.

The study shows that had you kept up with those lessons, your golden years[1] would have provided you with a better sense of hearing. So kids, tell your parents you want to join a band so you'll have better hearing when you get older. Yeah--that should go over.

The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov or on our podcast.
[1]golden years
-The time of life after retirement from active work.

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