Abstract

We conducted a randomized controlled trial to examine choral singing’s effect on cognitive decline in aging. Older Singaporeans who were at high risk of future dementia were recruited: 47 were assigned to choral singing intervention (CSI) and 46 were assigned to health education program (HEP). Participants attended weekly one-hour choral singing or weekly one-hour health education for two years. Change in cognitive function was measured by a composite cognitive test score (CCTS) derived from raw scores of neuropsychological tests; biomarkers included brain magnetic resonance imaging, oxidative damage and immunosenescence. The average age of the participants were 70 years and 73/93 (78.5%) were female. The change of CCTS from baseline to 24 months was 0.05 among participants in the CSI group and -0.1 among participants in the HEP group. The between-group difference (0.15, p=0.042) became smaller (0.12, p=0.09) after adjusting for baseline CCTS. No between-group differences on biomarkers were observed. Our data support the role of choral singing in improving cognitive health in aging. The beneficial effect is at least comparable than that of health education in preventing cognitive decline in a community of elderly people. Biological mechanisms underlying the observed efficacy should be further studied.