This hobby may help protect against cognitive decline in older people

In a recent study at the University of Helsinki, researchers found that choir singing can improve cognitive functioning in the elderly.

The study is published in PLOS ONE. One author is Emmi Pentikäinen.

Alongside the effects of lifestyle, including physical exercise and diet, on aging, research has increasingly turned its attention to the potential cognitive benefits of musical hobbies.

The cognitive benefits of playing an instrument are already fairly well known: such activity can improve cognitive flexibility, or the ability to regulate and switch focus between different thought processes.

However, the cognitive benefits of choir singing have so far been investigated very little.

In the study, the team found choir singing may engender benefits similar to playing an instrument.

Elderly singers had better verbal flexibility than those in the control group, who did not have choir singing as a hobby. Verbal flexibility reflects better cognitive flexibility.

In addition, those with a long history of singing in a choir experience a greater feeling of togetherness.

The study also looked into the potential benefits of choir singing for the emotional and social wellbeing of the elderly.

The team found that those who had sung in a choir for a longer period, more than 10 years, felt greater social togetherness than those with less or no experience of choir singing.

Furthermore, people who had started choir singing less than 10 years ago were happier with their overall health than those with longer singing experience and those who did not sing in a choir.

This study supports findings previously gained on the effects of playing an instrument on the cognitive functioning of elderly people and gives some indications that choir singing too may potentially have similar beneficial effects.

The team says choir singing is easy to do in practice, with little cost.

It’s an activity that requires versatile information processing, as it combines the processing of diverse sensory stimuli, motor function related to voice production and control, linguistic output, learning and memorizing melodies and lyrics, as well as emotions roused by the pieces sung.

If you care about cognitive function, please read studies about a new therapy to restore cognitive function in the elderly and findings of this high blood pressure drug linked to higher risk of cognitive decline.

For more information about prevention of cognitive decline, please see recent studies about older people with these personality traits may have worse cognitive function and results showing that memory loss can be reversed or abated in people with cognitive decline.

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