Participants Required for Study of the Effects of Music on the Ageing Brain

Jenny Groarke, a musician and PhD student in the School of Psychology at NUI Galway
Nov 30 2015 Posted: 14:21 GMT

NUI Galway study is seeking participants aged 60-85 years to join an experimental study on the effects of listening to music

Monday, 30 November, 2015: An ongoing ageing research project at NUI Galway is looking for additional participants to take part in the study. This study is part of a larger ongoing project at the University, which commenced in 2013, exploring the functions and effects of listening to music on the ageing brain with both younger and older adults.

The project is now seeking participants aged 60-85 years to join an experimental study on the effects of listening to music. Participants will spend two hours in a lab carrying out a variety of verbal and numerical tasks while listening to music and having their brain waves measured by electroencephalography (EEG).

Prior to the lab session participants will complete a questionnaire examining potential links between uses of music, personality and wellbeing. For example, are particular ways of listening to music more common among certain personality types, and do different uses of music have different consequences for a listener’s sense of wellbeing.

Jenny Groarke, a musician and PhD student in the School of Psychology at NUI Galway, said: “We will examine whether listening to music improves emotional, social or cognitive functioning, which we hope can be used to benefit older adults in the future.”

An important factor in the current research is the role of choice in music listening. Almost all previous studies on the effects of music have been carried out with adolescents or young adults, and most researchers have chosen classical music for participants to listen to. The researchers at NUI Galway have concluded the first part of this study with 18-30 year-olds and noted some interesting age differences in music choices.

Ms Groarke added, “We are trying to recreate real world listening experiences in the lab by having participants listen to music of their own choosing. For a start, only one of our 40 student participants selected a classical piece of music, yet almost all older adults studied so far selected classical music.”

Participants are asked to choose music for a couple of different scenarios, while socialising or working for example. Whatever the situation, it seems Ed Sheeran is a popular choice, with 25% of the young adults in the study choosing at least one of his hits. While younger people are tending to listen to their favourite music regardless of the situation, older people are demonstrating greater variety and sophistication when choosing music for different contexts.

Diverse musical tastes may take time to mature, or this might reflect differences in how age groups are listening to music. The researchers observed that the majority of young people are listening to music on personal devices and streaming services. The amount of choice can be overwhelming, so a well-known, popular song becomes a safe bet. Older people on the other hand tended to have smaller, personal record collections or listen to the radio.

Healthy older people may have the most to gain from music listening, yet are rarely included in research on its’ effects. The research team are hoping that another 200 adults over 60 will complete the questionnaire, and are seeking a further 25 people in this age category to visit the lab for their ‘Music and The Brain’ Study. Travel and expenses will be covered by the research team.

Jenny Groarke, a native of Galway, was inspired to study the link between music and well-being in older adults by her late grandfather Jimmy Dooley, who sang in the Augustinian choir for more than 65 years and played the drums in the Galway Bay Jazz band in Busker Browne’s every Sunday. She has also set up a business, Sing-Bang Music Workshops, which brings music workshops to nursing homes to improve memory ability, happiness, and quality of life in elderly adults through group music making.

The study will run until Christmas and those interested in participating must complete the questionnaire of adaptive music listening functions, and sign up for the experiment at

Alternatively, participants can request a paper version of the questionnaire by contacting Jenny Groarke on and for more information on participating in the research visit


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