Musical training in the younger years can enhance speech comprehension skills in later life and prevent the decay of the brain in relation to different cognitive functions that can diminish with age, said new research.
“Musical activities are an engaging form of cognitive brain training and we are now seeing robust evidence of brain plasticity from musical training not just in younger brains, but in older brains too,” said Gavin Bidelman, a post-doctoral fellow at Rotman Research Institute (RRI) in Canada.
Older adults with prior musical training in childhoood were 20 percent faster in identifying speech sounds than their peers with no musical background, in a study conducted on 20 healthy older adults (aged 55-75) – of whom 10 were musicians and 10 non-musicians.
The participants were put on headphones in a controlled lab setting and were asked to identify random speech sounds. During the testing cycles, researchers recorded the neural activity of each participant with the help of electroencephalography (EEG).
Those given formal music lessons prior to age 14 and continuing intense training for up to a decade later on have been found to have enhanced key areas in the brain that support speech recognition.
There is already a mounting evidence that musical training gives young developing brains a cognitive boost. The new study adds that the neural enhancements extend further across the lifespan into old age when the brain needs it most to counteract cognitive decline.
The findings have been published in The Journal of Neuroscience.