Experience of playing a musical instrument and lifetime change in general cognitive ability: Evidence from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936

Judith A. Okely*, Katie Overy, Ian J Deary

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

We tested whether experience playing a musical instrument was associated with lifetime change in cognitive ability. Participants were 366 older adults from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936, who had completed general cognitive ability assessments at ages 11 and 70 and reported their experience playing a musical instrument at age 82. This sample included 117 participants who had played a musical instrument, mostly to a beginner or intermediate level. There was a small, statistically significant, positive association between experience playing a musical instrument and change in general cognitive ability between ages 11 and 70, such that individuals with more musical instrument experience were likely to show greater gains in general cognitive ability. This association was reduced but remained statistically significant following adjustment for covariate variables (childhood and adulthood socioeconomic status, years of education, and disease history). These findings suggest that playing a musical instrument is associated with a long-term cognitive advantage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1495-1508
Number of pages14
JournalPsychological Science
Volume33
Issue number9
Early online date28 Aug 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Aug 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • musical training
  • general cognitive ability
  • longitudinal study
  • older adults

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