Sunday, September 29, 2013

Musicians 'have sharper minds': study

I would think that you would mostly have to be of above IQ to play a musical instrument -- so all we are seeing here is effects of higher IQ

PLAYING a musical instrument could help protect against mental decline through age or illness, according to a new study.
Musicians have sharper minds and are able to pick up and correct mistakes quicker than non-musicians, researchers at St Andrews University found.

They measured the behavioural and brain responses of amateur musicians compared with non-musicians when performing simple mental tasks.

The results showed that playing a musical instrument, even at moderate levels, improves a person's ability to detect errors and adjust responses more effectively.

Musicians also responded faster than those with little or no musical training, with no loss in accuracy, the study found.

The research was led by psychologist Ines Jentzsch, a reader in the university's School of Psychology and Neuroscience.

"Our study shows that even moderate levels of musical activity can benefit brain functioning," she said.

"Our findings could have important implications as the processes involved are amongst the first to be affected by ageing, as well as a number of mental illnesses such as depression.

"The research suggests that musical activity could be used as an effective intervention to slow, stop or even reverse age or illness-related decline in mental functioning."

The study, published in the journal Neuropsychologia, builds on previous work showing the benefits of musical activity on mental and physical well-being.

Pianist Dr Jentzsch said: "Musical activity cannot only immensely enrich our lives but the associated benefits for our physical and mental functioning could be even more far-reaching than proposed in our and previous research."


Want to stay sharp in old age? Have a drink: Alcohol found to improve memory in most elderly people

A glass of wine every day could be the secret to keeping a brighter mind in old age.  Moderate drinking was found to improve memory and learning skills in a long-term study of elderly people.

The research claims that the benefits only begin to emerge after middle age.

However, not everyone will feel the benefits of a daily tipple.

While about 80 per cent of pensioners will do better with a drink, an unlucky 20 per cent will not.

In fact, a regular drink will put this group’s cognitive abilities into reverse because their DNA includes a gene called APOE e4, which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, published in the journal Alcohol And Alcoholism, states: ‘Light and moderate alcohol  consumption during late life was associated with greater decline in learning and memory among  APOE e4 carriers.  ‘Whereas light and moderate alcohol consumption was associated with an increase in learning and memory among non-APOE e4 carriers.’

The study said there were ‘several mechanisms’ that may explain the relationship between alcohol and ability to think clearly.

These include alcohol’s anti-inflammatory properties and the fact that moderate consumption has been known to protect against dementia, stroke, coronary heart disease and Type II diabetes.

The study, by the Universities of Kentucky and Maryland, continued: ‘APOE e4 is a widely accepted genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease [and] is also associated with lower cognition among non-demented older adults.’

Paul Green, from the lifestyle company Saga, said: ‘There’s no doubt a tipple or two can take the edge off the ageing process. Our own research shows that the over-50s are sensible drinkers and you don’t get to a certain age in life without knowing your limits.

‘But if more work was done to find out who carries the APOE e4 gene then it could encourage people to better protect their health by reining in how much they consume.’

The study examined 619 US pensioners aged 69 to 92 in Framingham, Massachusetts. They are part of a long-term health-monitoring project which began in 1948.  Their drinking habits and cognitive faculties were tracked from mid-life to the present day.

Researchers found that the effects of alcohol were largely determined by whether or not a person possessed the e4 variant of the APOE gene, which helps regulate cholesterol in the body.

Among the 22 per cent who were found to be carriers, teetotallers fared markedly better in tests charting decline in brain function.

However, for the 78 per cent who did not possess e4, those who enjoyed alcohol showed more resilient learning and memory abilities than those who abstained.

The protective effect was strongest for those who consumed between seven and 14 drinks a week.

A recent Newcastle University study claimed that the safe limits for the elderly should be slashed to avoid alcohol interfering with medication as well as causing falls, depression and dementia.

Last night, Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: ‘A little bit of what you fancy does you good, as the saying goes, and drinking low to moderate levels of alcohol can often be an important part of social life for older people.

'Everyone reacts differently, but every older person needs to be aware that too much alcohol can both cause and exacerbate health problems.’


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