Those violin lessons you took a kid could have a big payoff later in life, according to new research from Northwestern University researchers.
Scientists reported in the Neurobiology of Aging study that "aging disrupts neural timing, reducing the nervous system's ability to precisely encode sound." However, they found that lifelong musical training could help people have better hearing in old age.
Researchers found that the older people who were trained in music had better neural timing than those who hadn't been trained in music.
The study included 87 adults who were asked to watch a captioned video. Their neural responses to the sounds of speech were measured. The lifelong musicians were defined as those who were trained in music before age 9, and who participated in musical activities throughout life, while "non-musicians" included everyone who had a year or less of musical training, researchers said.
[Researchers] discovered that older musicians had a distinct neural timing advantage. This was determined by measuring the automatic brain responses of younger and older musicians and non-musicians to speech sounds.
"The older musicians not only outperformed their older non-musician counterparts, they encoded the sound stimuli as quickly and accurately as the younger non-musicians," study researcher Nina Kraus, of Northwestern, said in a statement. "This reinforces the idea that how we actively experience sound over the course of our lives has a profound effect on how our nervous system functions."
Previously, research has shown that taking music lessons helps keep the brain sharp when it comes to memory and mental tasks. That research was published in the journal Neuropsychology.