ISLAMABAD: A study, recently published in the journal Brain and Cognition, finds that trained musicians have faster reaction times than their non-musical peers.

he study was conducted at the Université de Montréal's (UdeM) School of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology, part of UdeM's medical faculty in Canada.

Led by Simon Landry, the research formed part of his doctoral thesis in biomedical science, and his area of specific interest is how sound and touch interact. Landry wants to understand "how playing a musical instrument affects the senses in a way that is not related to music."

Taking part were eight pianists, three violinists, two percussionists, a double bassist, a harpist, and a viola player. All but one of the musicians also played at least one other instrument.

The non-musicians were taken from the university's School of Speech Language Pathology. Both groups had a roughly even split between graduates and undergraduates.

In a well-lit and quiet room, each participant was tested alone. They placed one hand on a mouse and the other on a vibro-tactile device that vibrated at random intervals. Just in front of each participant was a speaker that emitted bursts of white noise at random points in time.

Simon Landry said that "We found significantly faster reaction times with musicians for auditory, tactile, and audio-tactile stimulations. These results suggest for the first time that long-term musical training reduces simple non-musical auditory, tactile, and multisensory reaction times."

According to the authors, when these results are taken together with previous findings, they infer that musicians are better than non-musicians at integrating inputs from different senses.

lthough the study might provide bragging rights for musicians, there is a more serious angle. Reaction times tend to slow during the process of aging. For certain individuals, this can be a significant problem. However, perhaps music tuition could prove useful for this subset of older adults.

As Landry says: "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."

This new information adds to the weight of recent findings regarding the health benefits of music and musical training. As the studies roll in, music could well become a common form of adjunctive therapy for a range of conditions.