Anita Connell

Research Student -  PhD

Research Program: Brain Sciences

Thesis Title

Music Instrument Learning Throughout Ageing and Cognitive Impairment

Research Project

As the world population of older adults continues to increase, so too do the number of people with age-related cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementias. Currently, there is no pharmacological cure for dementia. Early intervention and prevention, particularly during the pre-dementia stage of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), offers the best hope of delaying deterioration, maintaining everyday functioning and minimising the health, social and economic implications.

There is evidence that cognitive programs and cognitively stimulating activities can protect against cognitive decline and preserve everyday functioning in instrumental activities of daily living (iADL) for older adults. Additionally, it is known that actively participating in music-based activities has cognitive benefits and that for older adults, higher levels of well-being are realised when a sense of purpose, autonomy and control is maintained in the music activity.

This research proposes that music-based activities for older adults and those with MCI where creative input and autonomy is high will have a positive effect on executive functioning and global cognition. As well as the anticipated increases in executive functioning and global cognition, it is expected that a far transfer to iADL will be more likely in music-based activities where creative input and autonomy is high than in activities where creative input and autonomy are lower.


  • BA (Hons) Music, Liverpool University, UK
  • PgDip in Human Resources Management, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
  • PgDip in Coaching and Consultancy, Manchester University, UK
  • MCMT (Masters in Creative Music Therapy), Western Sydney University

LocationWestern Sydney University Westmead campus