Music Therapy for Stroke Patients

We all know that music can affect our moods. It's no secret that popping in a favorite CD can change our frame of mind and even inspire us to sing and dance. Music can uplift our spirit, but can it aid in recovery for stroke patients? A recent study seems to think so.

A team of Finnish researchers, lead by Teppo Sarkamo from the University of Helsinki, studied 60 stroke survivors to see if they could benefit from music therapy in addition to their regular stroke rehabilitation. The goal was to offer music therapy immediately, before large changes in the brain had begun, although the 60 patients were already showing signs of movement, attention problems and memory problems. After 3 months, the researchers had noticed a dramatic effect.

Some patients listened to their music of choice for a couple of hours a day, some listened to audio books and some listened to nothing at all. Verbal memory improved in the music group by 60%, focused attention improved by 17% and the music group was also documented as being more clear and positive minded ' showing less signs of depression or confusion than the other two groups.

The research team suggests that music should be considered as a helpful addition to regular stroke therapy to help enhance cognitive recovery and a positive mood.

The research team is not sure of the scientific reasons for music improving memory but they are entertaining the idea that music may stimulate damaged areas of the brain, or that it may stimulate mechanisms responsible for the brain to repair neural networks. It is also possible that music works on the part of the nervous system responsible for memory and pleasure. More research may be able to help determine why music therapy is so helpful for stroke patients.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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