Scientists reveal the best activity your child can do now to make them brainier as an adult | The Sun

KIDS take up all sorts of hobbies as they grow up, some lasting a lifetime and others becoming boring within weeks.

But if there’s one thing you can do now to boost your child’s brain health in later life, it’s to get them to play a musical instrument.

That’s according to a new study conducted by the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Napier University.

Researchers found that people who had played a musical instrument most of their lives did slightly better in tests of their cognitive ability in their 70s and early 80s than those who had not.

The link is seen even when other factors that may have influenced older brain age health are taken into account, such as their intelligence or education.

Studies have already suggested that children benefit from playing music when they are young, performing better on cognitive tests.

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The study participants were all born in 1936 in the Edinburgh and Lothian areas.

They were tested on a number of physical and mental functions as they grew older, including regular resitting of standardised cognitive ability tests.

Out of the 420 participants in the latest study, 167 had some experience of playing a musical instrument, mostly during their childhood or teenage years.

All participants showed similar levels of decline in their test performances in their 70s.

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However, there was one difference – those who had experience playing an instrument performed better in tests of processing speed and visuospatial reasoning.

Visuospatial reasoning is the capacity to imagine in one's mind the position of objects and where they are in relation to each other.

It plays a key role in daily tasks, such as walking around a room with furniture or driving.

Researchers said the results do not prove that musical training enhances cognitive skills, since unexplored factors might have contributed to the findings.

They said the results do, however, clearly show playing a musical instrument might contribute to staying sharper in later life.

Dr Judith Okely, of Edinburgh Napier University, said: "We see these results as an exciting starting point for further investigation into how musical experience from across the life course might contribute to healthy ageing."

The study, funded by Age UK and the Economic and Social Research Council, is published in the journal Psychology and Aging.

It comes after the University of Edinburgh produced a paper last year suggesting a link between playing an instrument and better cognitive skills in old age.

Further studies are now being planned – and the experts want to hear from people with a wide range of musical experiences, including informal music listening, singing, dancing, performing and/or teaching.

Anyone over 18 can volunteer to join a new database to contribute to future studies.

The researchers are particularly interested in hearing from people who have retired.

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Professor Katie Overy of the University of Edinburgh said: "Music can be such a joyful and enriching experience at all ages, regardless of expertise or musical genre.

"We are keen to investigate musical experience further, including music listening and singing, and we look forward to developing the new volunteer database."

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