Playing an Instrument Linked to Better Brain Health in Older Adults

February 2nd, 2024

By John Patterson

Staff Writer for Wake Up World

Engaging in musical activities throughout one’s life may hold the key to maintaining cognitive sharpness in older age, suggests a groundbreaking study conducted by experts at the University of Exeter. Published findings from the ongoing PROTECT study shed light on the profound relationship between musicality and brain health, offering insights into the potential benefits of playing instruments or participating in choirs as individuals age.

The Harmony of Research: PROTECT Study Insights

Led by scientists at the University of Exeter, the PROTECT study stands as a pioneering endeavor, welcoming individuals aged 40 and above to contribute invaluable data for over a decade. With a cohort surpassing 25,000 participants, the study delves into the intricate interplay between lifestyle choices and cognitive well-being.

In their latest analysis, researchers scrutinized the musical experiences of over a thousand adults aged 40 and above, discerning the impact of musical engagement on cognitive vitality. By juxtaposing participants’ musical backgrounds with cognitive test results, the team aimed to unravel the nuances of how musical pursuits influence brain health as individuals age.

Key Findings: Music as a Melody of Cognitive Resilience

The results, resounding with promise, underscore the profound benefits of musical engagement on cognitive acuity, particularly in older adults. Among the key revelations, playing a musical instrument emerged as a potent catalyst for bolstering memory and enhancing executive function—the ability to tackle complex tasks with finesse.

Professor Anne Corbett, spearheading dementia research at the University of Exeter, elucidates, “Our PROTECT study has given us a unique opportunity to explore the relationship between cognitive performance and music in a large cohort of older adults. Overall, we think that being musical could be a way of harnessing the brain’s agility and resilience, known as cognitive reserve.”

Tuning into Lifelong Musicality

As the findings reverberate through the halls of scientific inquiry, they advocate for the integration of musical education into public health initiatives geared towards safeguarding brain health. Encouraging older adults to rediscover the joy of music in later life may serve as a pivotal strategy in fostering cognitive resilience and mitigating the risk of cognitive decline.


While acknowledging the need for further investigation, Professor Corbett emphasizes the potential of music group activities as a cornerstone of healthy aging initiatives. By embracing the transformative power of music, individuals can embark on a harmonious journey towards nurturing brain health and enriching their lives.

Echoes of Experience: Insights from Stuart Douglas

Stuart Douglas, a seasoned accordion player hailing from Cornwall, embodies the enduring synergy between music and cognitive vitality. Reflecting on his lifelong musical odyssey, Douglas attests to the profound impact of music on his cognitive well-being.

“I learnt to play the accordion as a boy living in a mining village in Fife,” Douglas reminisces. “These days I still play regularly, and playing in the band also keeps my calendar full, as we often perform in public. We regularly play at memory cafes so have seen the effect that our music has on people with memory loss, and as older musicians ourselves we have no doubt that continuing with music into older age has played an important role in keeping our brains healthy.”

Embracing the Overture of Cognitive Wellness

As the curtains rise on a new era of cognitive wellness, the resonance of music emerges as a timeless symphony of resilience and renewal. From the ivory keys of a piano to the spirited melodies of a choir, the transformative power of music invites individuals to embark on a harmonious journey towards vibrant brain health and enriched lives.

In the intricate tapestry of existence, let us heed the timeless refrain of melody and rhythm, embracing music as a beacon of hope and rejuvenation in the symphony of life.


  1. The relationship between playing musical instruments and cognitive trajectories: Analysis from a UK ageing cohortInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2024; 39 (2) DOI: 10.1002/gps.6061

About the author:

John Patterson is an avid writer and researcher who delves into the latest scientific research. With an insatiable curiosity, he translates complex concepts into accessible narratives, allowing readers to embark on a journey of discovery. Through his work, John bridges the gap between experts and the public, igniting curiosity and inspiring meaningful conversations about scientific breakthroughs.

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