Potential Cognitive Benefits From Playing Music Among Cognitively Intact Older Adults: A Scoping Review

Catherine E. Schneider, Elizabeth G. Hunter, Shoshana H. Bardach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The aging population is growing rapidly, raising rates of cognitive impairment, which makes strategies for protection against cognitive impairment increasingly important. There is little evidence indicating highly effective interventions preventing or slowing onset of cognitive impairment. Music playing influences brain and cognitive function, activating multiple brain areas and using cognitive and motor functions as well as multiple sensory systems, simultaneously. The purpose of this study was to review the current evidence related to playing a musical instrument being a potentially protective mechanism against cognitive decline among older adults. Using scoping review procedures, four databases were searched. Paired reviewers analyzed articles for content, design, and bias. Eleven studies met study criteria and were included in the review. All studies showed that music playing was correlated with positive outcomes on cognitive ability; more high-quality research is needed in this area to understand mechanisms behind potential cognitive protection of music.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1763-1783
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Applied Gerontology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Mark Ingram from the Medical Center Library at the University of Kentucky for developing the search strategies and conducting the search. The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • cognition
  • music
  • music playing
  • musical training
  • protective affects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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