It turns out that reducing your chances of developing dementia in later life can actually be a whole lot of fun. New research has found that learning to play a musical instrument or to speak another language can help keep your brain more efficient.

Both musicians and bilinguals use different parts of their brain, using different networks and saving energy – all of which means they are less likely to develop dementia. The scans of these people revealed they used fewer resources during a memory test, and their brains worked more efficiently.

‘These findings show that musicians and bilinguals require less effort to perform the same task, which could also protect them against cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia,’ says senior scientist Dr Claude Alain, of Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institude, Toronto.

The study built on previous research that showed musicians and linguists are better at retaining information, including phone numbers and instructions.

This new study also shows that experiences – such as learning – can help shape the way in which your brain functions, and which networks are used.