Playing a musical instrument has a positive impact on cognitive ability, according to new research published in Psychological Science and reported by The Economist.

A team of researchers at Edinburgh University found a significant positive relationship between playing an instrument and change in cognitive ability over time. Moreover, both the improvement in cognitive ability and its longevity appear to increase with the hours and years of practice with an instrument over one’s life, although just two years of training already enhances cognition.

This research does not explain why playing a musical instrument has these outcomes. It is possible that musical training involves a mix of focused attention, co-ordination, auditory-motor skills and memory which generate the observed improvements in cognitive ability.

Whatever the reason, these findings strengthen the case for musical training as part of a comprehensive education, in addition to its many other benefits.

Sources: Psychological Science, The Economist