Learning to play a musical instrument could improve reactions to sensory stimulations. It could also help you stay alert in old age.

According to a study published in the Brain and Cognition journal, musicians respond faster to sensory stimuli than those who don’t play any instrument.

The study was conducted by researchers from the School of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology, University of Montreal. The finding could prove beneficial to the elderly as it may help to prevent the degenerative effects of aging.

“As people get older, for example, we know their reaction times get slower. So if we know that playing a musical instrument increases reaction times, may be playing an instrument will be helpful for them,” said lead researcher Simon Landry.

“The more we know about the impact of music on basic sensory processes, the more we can apply musical training to individuals with slower reaction times,” explains Landry.

The researchers compared the reaction times of 16 musicians and 19 non-musicians. All the musicians had started playing between the ages of 3 and 10, having trained for atleast seven years.

The participants sat in a quiet, well-lit room. They put one hand on a computer mouse. They placed the other on a vibro-tactile device, a small box that vibrated intermittently. Participants were asked to click the mouse when they heard a sound or when the box vibrated, or when both happened.

Researchers found that musicians responded more rapidly compared to people with no musical training. These results suggest for the first time that long-term musical training reduces simple non-musical auditory, tactile and multisensory reaction times.

The study was aimed at testing whether long-term musical training might also enhance other multisensory processes at a behavioural level. “The idea is to better understand how playing a musical instrument affects the senses in a way that is not related to music,” added Landry.


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