Gareth Malone has convinced many of the community benefits and emotional pay off for those joining a choir, but it seems any form of music making will also help keep those brain cells alert.

If you resisted that piano practice when you were younger, don’t worry it is never too late and if can’t manage to tinkle the ivories now what about something else like handbell ringing?  Any form of musical training – like regularly rehearsing or performing – will help prevent age-related delays in the thinking process according to a new study from Northwestern University in the USA.

The study is the first to provide biological evidence that lifelong musical experience has an impact on the aging process. In fact when measuring the automatic brain responses of younger and older musicians and non-musicians to speech sounds the older musicians had a distinct neural timing advantage.

Northwestern neuroscientist Nina Kraus reported that “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. 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.”

Staying sharp as we age has usually involved recommending doing daily crosswords, puzzles or Sudoku but the value of musical ability has never been tested in this way.  I don’t play an instrument but I do belong to a Community Quire that teaches aurally and can vouch for the brain enhancing qualities of learning a complex interweaving melody by memory alone – no visual aids for us!

The study focused on music’s ability to enhance brain function, but didn’t touch on what for me are the equally important elements: the emotional and spiritual response that music can evoke in us.  Music’s role in helping deal with stress is well known, and the music of Sulis for instance was studied in relation to helping patients and carers at the Bristol Cancer Clinic and found to reduce blood pressure and restore balance.

Staying sharp and alert as we age doesn’t have to be a chore – make music and all the health benefits listed above will be yours!

AnnA is an author and editor of the information site for women on hormonal health at




AnnA Rushton is an experienced author and speaker on health, personal development and creativity. With a background in television, theatre and advertising she is a natural communicator with a particular interest in womens health and holistic medicine. Her books include 'Natural Progesterone', How to Cope Successfully With Stress', 'Tips For Hot Flushes', 'Dealing With Procrastination' and 'How To Write Your Life Story' all of which are available at

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