Musicians have quicker reactions than non-players, says study

Also, get off the couch to help keep dementia at bay, and mother’s blood pressure before pregnancy could indicate whether she has a boy or girl

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 9:07pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 9:06pm

Musicians have faster reaction times to sensory stimuli than non-musicians and this could have implications for preventing some effects of ageing, according to a new study from the Université de Montréal published in the journal Brain and Cognition.

The study compared the reaction times of 16 musicians and 19 non-musicians. The musicians were recruited from the university’s music faculty, started playing between ages three and 10, and had at least seven years of training.

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Study participants were seated in a quiet, well-lit room with one hand on a computer mouse and the index finger of the other on a vibro-tactile device, a small box that vibrated intermittently. They were told to click on the mouse when they heard a sound (a burst of white noise) from the speakers in front of them, or when the box vibrated, or when both happened.

“We found significantly faster reaction times with musicians for auditory, tactile and audio-tactile stimulations,” writes lead researcher Simon Landry in his report. On the implications of his findings, he says: “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.”

Couch potatoes face same chance of dementia as those with genetic risk factors

Sedentary older adults with no genetic risk factors for dementia may be just as likely to develop the disease as those who are genetically predisposed, according to a major study which followed more than 1,600 Canadians over five years.

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“The important message here is that being inactive may completely negate the protective effects of a healthy set of genes,” says Jennifer Heisz, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University and co-author of the study. “Given that most individuals are not at genetic risk, physical exercise may be an effective prevention strategy.”

Published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the study tracked participants in the Canadian Study of Health and Ageing. While carriers of a variant of the ‘apolipoprotein E’ genotype are more likely to develop dementia, inactivity was found to dramatically increase the risk for non-carriers.

Maternal blood pressure before pregnancy may be predictor of baby’s sex

There are numerous old wives’ tales that claim to predict a fetus’ sex, but none backed by science. Now a study published in the American Journal of Hypertension suggests a scientific way of predicting: a woman’s blood pressure before pregnancy is related to her likelihood of giving birth to a boy or girl.

A research team led by Dr Ravi Retnakaran, endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, established a unique pre-conception cohort of young women in Liuyang, China who were planning to be pregnant in the near future. Participants underwent baseline medical assessment at recruitment and then, whenever they subsequently became pregnant, were followed across the pregnancy up to delivery through their clinical care. A total of 1,411 women, who delivered a total of 739 boys and 672 girls, were analysed for the study in the end.

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After adjustment for age, education, smoking, BMI, waist, LDL and HDL cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose, mean adjusted systolic blood pressure before pregnancy was found to be higher in women who subsequently had a boy than in those who delivered a girl (106.0 vs. 103.3 mm Hg). Higher maternal blood pressure before pregnancy emerged as an independent predictor of subsequently delivering a boy.