From: The Economist

Playing an Instrument Is Linked to Better Cognition

From strumming a guitar next to a campfire to entertaining guests with a piano piece at a formal dinner, being able to play a musical instrument is unquestionably rewarding. Yet, evidence suggests that the rewards go far beyond the elation of performing well in front of others—those who play instruments have often been found to perform better on cognitive tests too.

Enhanced cognition is well-known to be linked to a range of positive life outcomes such as getting a better job and enjoying improved health. However, it has remained unclear whether these enhanced cognitive skills are just temporary. New research published in Psychological Science suggests that the benefits of musical instruments remain for decades.

Read the whole story (subscription may be required): The Economist


I have read the Economist article but not the publication on which it is based. From the Economist article, it would appear that the benefit arises from playing a musical instrument rather than from engaging actively in musical activity. A question remains whether the human voice might be considered an instrument. Readers of the Economist who are parents might conclude that it is important to make sure their child learns a musical instrument, however, it is possible that the same benefits of learning a musical instrument may arise from serious vocal training, and participating in choral ensembles that require active, focused mental activity. From an economic standpoint, using the free instrument of the human voice might enable more children to actively engage in music and reap the benefits of music training. Singing entails complex motor activity as does playing a musical instrument. It is true that the hands and limbs are not involved to the same extent, but the sensory motor integration entailed by singing may exceed that required by many instruments, particularly those with fixed pitch, like the piano, whose tuning is independent of auditory feedback (unlike that for the human voice, non-fretted stringed instruments, and members of the brass family for example).

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