Music improves working memory in study of seniors

A study led by Damian Marie and UNIGE, HES-SO Geneva, and EPFL colleagues showed the effect of music on working memory decline.

132 healthy retirees from 62 to 78 years of age, who had not taken any lessons for at least six months, were assigned to two groups — piano practice, and active listening.

According to author Clara James: ”After six months, we found common effects for both interventions. Neuroimaging revealed an increase in grey matter in four brain regions involved in high-level cognitive functioning in all participants, including cerebellum areas involved in working memory. Their performance increased by 6% and this result was directly correlated to the plasticity of the cerebellum.” Quality of sleep, the number of lessons, and daily training time also had a positive impact on brain performance.

In the pianists, the volume of grey matter remained stable in the right primary auditory cortex. It decreased in the active listening group. A global brain pattern of atrophy was present in all participants, showing that while music can prevent aging in specific regions, the researchers could not yet conclude that music generally rejuvenates the brain.