(Telegraph) Why musicians may make the best drivers: playing an instrument improves reactions
By Sarah Knapton,
Musicians may make the safest drivers, a new study suggests, after researchers found that people who play an instrument have faster reaction times.
The University of Montreal compared the reaction times of 16 musicians and 19 non-musicians asking them to click a mouse button when they sensed a vibration or noise.
Musicians reacted around 30 per cent faster than people who could not play instruments.
“We found significantly faster reaction times with musicians ,” said lead author, doctoral student Simon Landry.
“These results suggest for the first time that long-term musical training reduces simple non-musical auditory, tactile and multisensory reaction times.
“Reaction times are related to cognitive function. Having faster reaction times could help reacting to something when you’re driving , if your attention is focused on driving, or if your job requires you to react to something quickly.”
The finding could also be useful for elderly people, as it suggests that learning an instrument in later life could improve mental ability and prevent the brain declining.
“As people get older, for example, we know their reaction times get slower. So if we know that playing a musical instrument increases reaction times, then maybe playing an instrument will be helpful for them,” added Mr Landry.
“The more we know about the impact of music on really basic sensory processes, the more we can apply musical training to individuals who might have slower reaction times.”
Research has already shown that learning a second language in later life can help build cognitive reserve and prevent age related decline.