Musical training in the younger years can prevent the decay in the ability to comprehend speech in later life, new research has found.
Among the different cognitive functions that can diminish with age is the ability to understand speech.
"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, who led the study as a post-doctoral fellow at Rotman Research Institute (RRI) in Canada.
Older adults who had musical training in their youth were 20 percent faster in identifying speech sounds than their non-musician peers on speech identification tests, a benefit that has already been observed in young people with musical training.
In this study, 20 healthy older adults (aged 55-75) - 10 musicians and 10 non-musicians - 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 using electroencephalography (EEG).
Starting formal lessons on a musical instrument prior to age 14 and continuing intense training for up to a decade appears to enhance key areas in the brain that support speech recognition.
The new findings add to mounting evidence that musical training not only gives young developing brains a cognitive boost, but those neural enhancements extend across the lifespan into old age when the brain needs it most to counteract cognitive decline.
The findings were published in The Journal of Neuroscience. (IANS)