Lectures and seminars Brain & Culture lecture: Lifetime musical experience and healthy ageing
Speaker: Judith Okely from Edinburgh Napier University, UK
Hosts: Gunnar Bjursell and John Sennett
Please see the website for more information
Identifying modifiable lifestyle factors that promote independence and wellbeing in later life is a priority. People who play a musical instrument tend to perform better on tests of cognitive ability, while findings from neuroimaging studies have documented brain differences between musicians and non-musicians. In addition, research points to the psychological benefits of music making and appreciation. These findings mostly come from studies with adults and children; less is known about the potential advantage of musical experience for older adults. In a recent ESRC-funded project, together with my colleagues Prof Deary and Dr Overy, I set out to examine whether aspects of lifetime musical experience are associated with better cognitive, brain or psychological health in older age. We addressed these questions using data from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936, a longitudinal study of healthy cognitive ageing. Every three years, since the age of 70, participants have completed a detailed battery of thinking and memory tests, have had multiple brain MRI scans and provided extensive health, demographic, psychological and lifestyle data. Importantly, a measure of cognitive ability in childhood is also available for these participants. This valuable dataset allowed us to examine the relationship between musical experience and healthy ageing from a lifespan perspective. I will present results from several studies emerging from this project.