Dr. Jennifer Bugos and Dr. Jerri Edwards Receive National Endowment for the Arts Grant: The Impact of Piano Training on Cognitive Performance and Psychosocial Well-Being in Older Adults

Dr. Jerri Edwards, Associate Professor in the School of Aging Studies, College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, is a Co-Investigator on a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant with Principal Investigator, Dr. Jennifer Bugos, Assistant Professor of Music Education, College of the Arts. Their study will examine the effects of piano training on the cognitive performance and psychosocial well-being of older adults.  Not only does music have a well-recognized impact on an individual’s emotional state, research shows that music training may also improve brain plasticity, potentially mitigating the effects of an aging brain, preventing cognitive decline and/or improving psychological health.

Dr. Edwards, whose research focuses on how cognitive abilities can be maintained and even enhanced with advancing age, investigates cognitive training strategies to help older adults to avoid or at least delay functional difficulties.  Dr. Edwards is a Principal Investigator of the USF Cognitive Aging Lab, a team of six scientists, four doctoral students, and seven undergraduate research assistants. Together, their goal is to improve the effectiveness of cognitive training techniques to promote health, well-being, and independence among older adults.

Dr. Bugos examines the neurological basis for music perception and cognition with regard to human development, lifespan learning, and cognitive transfer.   A previously funded grant from the Retirement Research Foundation, “Bimanual Coordination on Successful Aging: Results of a Model Music Program,” found that music training significantly enhanced processing speed, verbal fluency, and cognitive control for the participants in the study, who were healthy older adults ages 60-85. 

This NEA award will support a study of the impact of piano training on cognitive, psychosocial, and neurophysiological dimensions of well-being in older adults in the community. Partnering with the Hillsborough County Department of Aging Services, Drs. Bugos and Dr. Edwards will conduct a randomized, controlled trial study, examining the effects of the training on verbal fluency, working memory, mood, self-efficacy, and physiological stress.  Research has suggested that playing an instrument, particularly piano practice, engages multiple brain areas, reinforcing the ability to perform multi-task functions.  Adults 60 to 80 years of age who are interested in participating in the study should contact the USF Music and Research Testing Lab at (813) 517-9625.

The College of Behavioral and Community Sciences at the University of South Florida enrolls nearly 2,200 students and includes the Departments of Child and Family Studies, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Criminology, Mental Health Law and Policy, and the Schools of Aging Studies and Social Work. The School of Aging Studies, established in 1967, is one of the nation’s oldest and largest degree-awarding programs in Gerontology, and its Ph.D. in Aging Studies program, which began in 1994, has gained national prominence.

The School of Music in the College of the Arts has distinguished artist faculty, ensembles that perform regularly at state, regional and national music events, an exceptional jazz studies program, one of the most complete electronic music studios in the nation (SYCOM), a visionary music education program, and an environment that boasts a wide range of excellent cultural activities