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Sep 28, 2013 08:12 AM EDT

Playing Musical Instruments Helps Avoid Mental Illness, Study

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Playing musical instruments leads to good mental health and helps fight depression and dementia, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of St.Andrews.

Researchers arrived at the conclusion after comparing the cognitive ability of amateur musicians versus non-musicians in performing simple mental tasks. They found that musicians possess sharper minds and are able to identify and correct mistakes faster when compared to non-musicians. Their responses were more rapid and accurate when compared to people with little or no music training.

The experts also compared behavioral and brain responses between both the groups in simple tests. They found that even if an individual played a musical instrument in moderate levels, the person consciously tries not to make errors. If that person commits an error, he/she tries to rectify them more effectively.

The research was led by psychologist Ines Jentzsch, a reader in the university's School of Psychology and Neuroscience.

"Our study shows that even moderate levels of musical activity can benefit brain functioning. Our findings could have important implications as the processes involved are among the first to be affected by ageing, as well as a number of mental illnesses such as depression," Jentzsch said in an official statement.

"The research suggests that musical activity could be used as an effective intervention to slow, stop or even reverse age or illness-related decline in mental functioning."

The study, published in the journal Neuropsychologia.

"Musical activity cannot only immensely enrich our lives but the associated benefits for our physical and mental functioning could be even more far-reaching than proposed in our and previous research," Pianist Dr Jentzsch said in the official statement.

"Music plays an important role in virtually all societies. Nevertheless, in times of economic hardship, funds for music education are often amongst the first to be cut.We strongly encourage political decision makers to reconsider funding cuts for arts education and to increase public spending for music tuition," Jentzsch said.

"In addition, adults who have never played an instrument or felt too old to learn should be encouraged to take up music - it's never too late."

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