Can playing piano help prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

October 13, 2023

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There is currently no cure and no known way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease – a form of dementia that leads to progressive memory loss, confusion, and impaired cognitive function. This devastating degenerative brain disorder affects millions of people around the world.  Despite the fact that treatment option are limited, there is growing evidence to suggest that playing a musical instrument has a beneficial effect on the brain and can potentially reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

To play with musical expression, our brains must process very complex sensory information from our hands, eyes, and ears in order to produce the coordinated movements required.    Research studies have shown that playing a musical instrument can have a positive impact on the neural connections within the human brain because playing music requires a combination of motor, auditory, processing speed, and cognitive skills.

One study conducted at the University of Helsinki found that older adults who had played an instrument for an average of 9 years had better cognitive functioning and a lower risk of developing dementia compared to those who had never played an instrument. The study followed over 1,000 participants aged 60-85 for an average of 9 years, and found that those who had played an instrument had a 64% reduced risk of developing dementia compared to those who had not.

Another study published in “Frontiers in Psychology” found that playing the piano for just 6 months had benefits that included improved cognitive function in older adults. The study followed 60 participants aged 60-85 who had mild cognitive impairment – a condition which often precedes Alzheimer’s disease.  The participants were divided into two groups. One group received piano lessons for 6 months, while the other group did not. The group that received piano lessons showed significant improvements in cognitive function, including memory, attention, and processing speed.

The findings from these studies are promising. They help us learn more about how playing a musical instrument may be a beneficial activity for brain health, but the data gathered does not prove that playing an instrument can prevent Alzheimer’s disease.  To fully understand the relationship between playing piano and Alzheimer’s disease, more research is needed. We would need to work with a larger sample size and study specifics in regards to how often playing an instrument is necessary to see benefits.

Regardless, there’s no shortage of information leading to the fact that learning how to play the piano can be a beneficial activity for people of all ages. Playing an instrument is a fun and rewarding hobby that promotes creativity and self-expression. As you learn a new skill, it provides a sense of accomplishment. Piano lessons are a great way to boost one’s self esteem! Playing music is also a wonderful social activity when we share our music with others.

Even if you do not have a family history of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, playing the piano is  fun and rewarding. If you’re in New York City, you can explore all of the benefits to creativity, self-expression, and social connection with piano lessons at Riverside Music Studios!



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