Aging results in pervasive declines in nervous system function. In the auditory system, these declines include neural timing delays in response to fast-changing speech elements; this causes older adults to experience difficulty understanding speech, especially in challenging listening environments. These age-related declines are not inevitable, however: older adults with a lifetime of music training do not exhibit neural timing delays. Yet many people play an instrument for a few years without making a lifelong commitment. Here, we examined neural timing in a group ofhumanolder adultswhohad nominal amounts of music training early in life, butwhohad not played an instrument for decades. We found that a moderate amount (4-14 years) of music training early in life is associated with faster neural timing in response to speech later in life, long after training stopped (≥40 years). We suggest that early music training sets the stage for subsequent interactions with sound. These experiencesmayinteract over time to sustain sharpened neural processing in central auditory nuclei well into older age.
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