Do musicians stay sharp longer?

DSCF1131You have probably heard that singer-songwriter Glen Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago.

The 77 year-old has had world-wide hits with “By the time I get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Linesman’ among many others both pop and country.

He announced that he’d made his last album “Ghost on the Canvas”, planned to make a farewell tour, then retire from music. He says he was diagnosed early in 2011 but had suffered memory loss for some time.

You might think that Campbell has done well to be able to follow his dream for so long in what is an inherently un-healthy occupation. So what has helped him to keep going for so long?  Researcher and neuropsychologist Brenda Hanna-Pladdy at Emery University School of Medicine gave tests to people aged over 60 to measure their cognitive ability and memory.

She found that those who had played a musical instrument for ten years or more scored significantly higher on the tests than those with no musical background.

She thinks music lessons, like learning a second language, can help stave off cognitive decline and says; “musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of ageing….. Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive declines as we get older.”

She doesn’t say whether or not the genre of music is important but when you think how many old rock stars are still performing eg the Stones and Rod Stewart, who are all in their mid-sixties, who didn’t exactly live a healthy lifestyle when they were younger, it makes you wonder.

P1000457A couple of years ago I saw Steve Cropper, former guitarist with Booker T & the MGs and the Stax studio band, co-writer of “Dock of the Bay” (sung by Otis Redding) and a member of the Blues Brothers band, performing live at The Ramsbottom Festival at the age of 70.

And more recently Paul Jones, former Manfred Mann frontman, was performing live at the Burnley Rock & Blues Festival at the age of 71.P1000879

Rock on indeed!

Original version posted September 2011

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3 thoughts on “Do musicians stay sharp longer?

  1. […] decide to learn to play a musical instrument (and that’s a good thing as musicians stay sharper longer) […]

  2. […] Leran to play a musical instrument (the earlier the better) […]

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