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PLoS One. 2018 Nov 27;13(11):e0207957. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0207957. eCollection 2018.

Musical practice as an enhancer of cognitive function in healthy aging - A systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Mind, Brain and Behavior Research Center (CIMCYC), University of Granada, Granada, Spain.
Department of Psychobiology, University of Granada, Granada, Spain.
San Rafael University Hospital, Granada, Spain.
Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Granada, Granada, Spain.


Aging is accompanied by cognitive decline, although recent research indicates that the rate of decline depends on multiple lifestyle factors. One of such factors is musical practice, an activity that involves several sensory and motor systems and a wide range of high-level cognitive processes. This paper describes the first systematic review and meta-analysis, to our knowledge, of the impact of musical practice on healthy neurocognitive aging. The inclusion criteria for the review required that studies were empirical works in English or Spanish that they explored the effects of musical practice on older people; they included an assessment of cognitive functions and/or an assessment of brain status; and they included a sample of participants aged 59 years or older with no cognitive impairment or brain damage. This review led to the selection of 13 studies: 9 correlational studies involving older musicians and non-musicians and 4 experimental studies involving short-term musical training programs. The results of the meta-analysis showed cognitive and cerebral benefits of musical practice, both in domain-specific functions (auditory perception) and in other rather domain-general functions. Moreover, these benefits seem to protect cognitive domains that usually decline with aging and boost other domains that do not decline with aging. The origin of these benefits may reside, simultaneously, in the specific training of many of these cognitive functions during musical practice (specific training mechanism), in the improvement of compensatory cognitive processes (specific compensatory mechanism), and in the preservation of general functions with a global influence on others, such as perceptual capacity, processing speed, inhibition and attention (general compensatory mechanism). Therefore, musical practice seems to be a promising tool to reduce the impact of cognitive problems associated to aging.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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