May 12, 2011

Fight Aging with Music?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Musical training may offset some unwanted effects of aging, according to a new study. Researchers found musicians excel in auditory memory and the ability to hear speech in noisy environments when compared to non-musicians.

"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," Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory and co-author of the study, was quoted as saying. "It's well known that adults with virtually the same hearing profile can differ dramatically in their ability to hear speech in noise."

The researchers studied 18 musicians and 19 non-musicians aged 45 to 65. The tested them for speech in noise, auditory working memory, visual working memory and auditory temporal processing.

The musicians who began playing an instrument at age 9 or earlier and consistently played an instrument throughout their lives did better than the non-musician group in all categories but visual working memory, where both groups displayed nearly identical abilities.

Kraus says music training "fine tunes" the nervous system. "The neural enhancements we see in musically-trained individuals are not just an amplifying or 'volume knob' effect," Kraus said. "Playing music engages their ability to extract relevant patterns, including the sound of their own instrument, harmonies and rhythms."

SOURCE: PLos One, May 10, 2011