Tag Archives: dementia risk

Playing a musical instrument may lower dementia risk

Playing a musical instrument may lower the risk of dementia, according to research.

A study based on twins found that those who were able to make music had a one-third lower risk of developing the condition.

Researchers said little analysis had been carried out of the effects of playing an instrument as a leisure activity on dementia, with one of the problems having been the differences in the genetic backgrounds of participants.

By studying 157 sets of twins, the researchers were able to more accurately investigate the links between music and dementia, because identical twins share 100 per cent of their genetic makeup and dizygotic, or non-identical, twins, 50 per cent on average.

The study involved twins where only one had dementia, which enabled the researchers to track down risk factors unique to the twin with the disease, as well as protective factors exclusive to the healthy twin.

After taking into account sex, education, and physical activity, twins who played a musical instrument in older adulthood were 36 per cent less likely to develop dementia and cognitive impairment.

“Despite sharing numerous genetic propensities and environmental exposures during formative developmental years, dissimilarities in music engagement were associated with differences in dementia occurrence within twin pairs, and the association is not explained by education or physical activity,” said the researchers from the University of California, writing in the International Journal of Alzheimer’s disease.

Just how playing an instrument could have such an effect is unclear, but one theory is that it enhances so-called cognitive reserve, the brain’s ability to be resilient in the face of attack.

Some research has shown that greater education may delay the onset of dementia. Music processing involves a large number of brain regions. 

Source The Telegraph

Mass memory and reasoning tests ‘track dementia risk’

A third of a million adults in the UK are to be invited to take part in the world’s biggest study of cognitive function.

The aim of the trial, funded by the Medical Research Council, is to try to predict what factors may increase the risk of developing dementia.

All the participants will be part of UK Biobank, and previously gave DNA samples and lifestyle information.

They will be asked to do a series of memory and reasoning tests online.

When they were enrolled in UK Biobank over the past decade, volunteers gave blood and urine samples, underwent a fitness test and answered questions on their health and diet.


They also did a series of computer-based puzzles – those cognitive tests will now be repeated.

All the participants were aged 40-69 when the programme started.

This time the volunteers can do the test at home by logging in online.

Dr John Gallacher, an epidemiologist at Cardiff University. who helped devise the tests said: “Most people will have just minute falls in their test results since they did them last time but even this might help us predict who will develop dementia in the future.”

Researchers will also look at other factors like smoking, diet and exercise, to see how big a factor these are in triggering dementia.

“It’s important to stress that this is not a dementia test,” said Dr Gallacher.

“In order to stratify people for dementia risk we have to know their cognitive function before they develop the condition.”

What is the test like?

If you are already part of UK Biobank then you may remember doing a computer test measuring your cognitive function.

This includes simple games like Snap and some easy Maths questions.

But there are some designed to stretch you.

Some of the tests are done against the clock, so it can tell researchers whether your speed of response has declined.

It doesn’t matter if you get the questions wrong – I am sure I made a few mistakes.

You will not be given your test results or be told whether you did better or worse than when you enrolled.

So what’s in it for volunteers?

Nothing except the knowledge that you are helping improve the health of future generations.

It is a piece of pure altruism to which half a million Britons signed up.

So it may not help you, but it could help your children or grandchildren stay healthy.


UK Biobank, based in Stockport, is the world’s biggest and most detailed biomedical resource.

Information about individual participants is anonymised, but open to researchers in any field provided they feed all their results back.

Another long term goal is to develop new treatments.

Dr Gallacher added: “If we could delay the onset of dementia by five years that would halve the number of people with the condition, which would be massive”.

Dr Doug Brown, Alzheimer’s Society Director of Research and Development said: “We know that changes in the brain happen decades before any symptoms of dementia present themselves.

“Studying people in mid-life could ultimately help us find clues to understand or even prevent the condition.”

Source BBC News