Looking for a Gift? Give Your Child/Grandchild a Dulcimer!


I read about a study about the brain and aging … since I have a brain and I am aging (78 last birthday!). The study was conducted by Brenda Hanna-P)lady, Ph.D., who is a neuropsychologist in Emory's Department of Neurology, and cognitive psychologist Alicia MacKay, PhD. The study was to determine if people who spent time throughout their lives playing a musical instrument would score better on cognitive tests than folks who never picked up an instrument.

The study tested 70 individuals age 60-83 who were divided into three groups. The participants either had no musical training, one to nine years of musical study, or at least ten years of musical training. All of the participants had similar levels of education and fitness, and none of the seniors showed any evidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

The high-level musicians who had studied the longest performed the best on the tests, followed by the low-level musicians and non-musicians, revealing a trend relating to years of musical practice. The high-level musicians had statistically significant higher scores than the non-musicians on cognitive tests relating to visuospatial memory, naming objects and cognitive flexibility, or the brain's ability to adapt to new information.

Wow! For this test, I would have been in the group of “high-level musicians,” and my brain is still going strong. I think. I’m glad my momma had a piano in the house, and gave me the gift of lessons. I didn’t always appreciate her insistence on being disciplined about my practice times, but she did all that because she loved music, and her mother was a concert pianist who had played for the Queen of England. She wanted to pass on the tradition of playing the piano from daughter to daughter. I don’t think she realized the gift she gave me would have lifelong effects on my brain as well.

Consider gifting your child or grandchild with a musical instrument. It will be a gift that keeps on giving after you and I are gone.

Happy dulcimering,



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