Playing musical instrument 'sharpens mind' says St Andrews study

Playing piano Musicians were found to be more likely to notice mistakes and fix them quickly

Related Stories

Playing an instrument could sharpen the mind, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of St Andrews said their findings showed musicians were quicker to pick up mistakes and correct them.

The study adds to previous studies linking musical skills with mental and physical well-being.

The team said their results indicated musical activity could be used to slow, stop or even reverse age and illness-related decline in mental functioning.

The study compared groups of amateur musicians - with varying levels of time they had spent in practicing their instrument - to a non-musician control group.

Researchers then measured each group's behavioural and brain responses to simple mental tests.

'Effective intervention'

The most striking difference came in the musicians' ability to recognise and correct mistakes.

They also responded faster than those with little or no musical training, with no loss in accuracy. The team said this was perhaps not surprising since musicians learn to be constantly aware of their performance, but to not be overly affected by mistakes.

Psychologist Dr Ines Jentzsch, who led the research, said: "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 amongst the first to be affected by aging, as well as a number of mental illnesses such as depression.

"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 was partly funded by the Wellcome Trust and has been published in the journal Neuropsychologia.

Dr Jentzsch, herself a keen pianist, continued, "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."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Edinburgh, Fife and East



4 °C 2 °C


  • Mukesh SinghNo remorse

    Delhi bus rapist says victim shouldn't have fought back

  • Aimen DeanI spied

    The founder member of al-Qaeda who worked for MI6

  • Before and after shotsPerfect body

    Just how reliable are 'before and after' photos?

  • Lotus 97T driven by Elio de AngelisBeen and gone

    A champion F1 designer and other notable losses

  • A poster of Boris Nemtsov at a rally in St Petersburg, Russia, 1 MarchWho killed Nemtsov?

    Theories abound over murder that shocked Moscow

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.