Function Better in Your Old Age by Playing Music

Admit it: you’ve always wanted to play guitar, or perhaps, you’ve been meaning to pick it up again. Either way, you should!

New research has found that people with musical training on any instrument were able to certain task better in their old age when compared to non-musicians. So pick up your neglected jaw harp and get going on bringing those tunes in your head to life!

“The older musicians not only outperformed their older non-musician counterparts, they encoded the sound stimuli as quickly and accurately as the younger non-musicians,” said Northwestern neuroscientist Nina Kraus. “This reinforces the idea that how we actively experience sound over the course of our lives has a profound effect on how our nervous system functions.”

Kraus, professor of communication sciences in the School of Communication and professor of neurobiology and physiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, is co-author of “Musical experience offsets age-related delays in neural timing” published online in the journal “Neurobiology of Aging.”

“These are very interesting and important findings,” said Don Caspary, a nationally known researcher on age-related hearing loss at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. “They support the idea that the brain can be trained to overcome, in part, some age-related hearing loss.”

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Never too Old to Learn

If you thought that just because you’re old doesn’t mean you can’t learn. Apparently some people have the idea that age limits learning ability. New research has started to counter that myth, here’s a study that shows that people in their early 30s tend to have optimal facial recognition skills.

That conclusion is dramatically different from what researchers previously thought – that this ability peaked in adolescence, said Laura Germine, a graduate student in psychology at Harvard who specializes in this disorder.

In a study published in the online version of Cognition, Germine, Ken Nakayama, a psychology professor at Harvard, and Bradley Duchaine, a psychology professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, detailed their results from a series of online experiments with about 60,000 participants.

They asked participants to take a series of tests involving face recognition of six young men. In another series of tests, they were also asked to learn and then recognize a series of women’s and children’s faces.

“People in their early 30s are best at this task,” said Germine in a phone interview with the Star. “Someone at age 16 and age 65 do about the same. Their face-recognition abilities are similar.”

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