Why are researchers turning to music as a possible treatment for stroke, brain injuries, and even Parkinson’s?

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You probably don’t realize it while listening to your favorite song, but music has a feature. incredibly powerful effect on the human brain. Singing, playing an instrument, or listening to music has been shown to activate multiple areas of the brain that control it. speech, movement and cognition, memory and emotion – usually all at once. Remarkably, research also physical increase Brain substance that can help the brain repair itself.

Even more intriguing is the effect music can have even when the brain is not working as it should. For example, research shows that for Alzheimer’s patients, music often helps patients by igniting a response. access to memories those who have been lost before. There is also evidence of patients who have suffered brain damage and have lost the ability to speak. still sing when music is played.

Given the powerful effect music has on the brain, researchers are investigating whether music can be used to treat many different neurological conditions, such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease or brain damage. One such treatment currently being investigated for use, neurological music therapy.

Neurological music therapy works a bit like physiotherapy or speech therapy, as it aims to help patients manage symptoms and function better in their daily lives. Therapy sessions use musical or rhythmic exercises to help patients regain functional skills. For example, patients who relearn to walk after an accident or trauma may walk to the rhythm of music during a therapy session.

talk, walk, think

So far, this type of therapy has shown promise in helping. stroke survivors to get better slice, develop Walk and save physical movement Better than other standard treatments.

Researchers also investigated whether neurological music therapy could treat other movement disorders. Parkinson’s disease. Most studies in this area have used a technique called rhythmic drift Exercises that use the brain’s ability to unconsciously synchronize with a beat – such as having to walk to a certain music or beat pace.

Young male nurse helping an elderly man get up from his wheelchair and walk with a cane.
Walking with music can improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s patients.
New Africa/ Shutterstock

Compared to performing non-music therapy, neurological music therapy improve walking and reduce “freeze” moments (temporary, involuntary inability to move) in Parkinson’s patients.

Studies have also explored whether this type of therapy can treat cognitive problems in people who have had a stroke. traumatic brain injury or there is Huntington’s disease. Neuromusic therapy for such conditions, stimulating and stimulating areas of the brain that may have been damaged – for example, the prefrontal cortex, an area of ​​the brain responsible for planning, decision making, problem solving, and self-control. This may include switching between playing two types of instruments when the patient hears a change in the music they are playing together (such as faster or slower tempo).

a research study He found that such activities improved concentration and attention in patients with traumatic brain injury. This, in turn, had a positive effect on their well-being and reduced feelings of depression or anxiety.

music and the brain

The reason why neurological music therapy works is thought to be because music can activate and simulate many different parts of the brain at the same time. Usually for patients with neurological disorders connections in the brain causing problems rather than a particular area itself.

Research shows that music can create uniquely new connections in the brain. Listening to music also improves neuron repair It’s better than other activities like listening to audiobooks, which may mean the brain is working better and making new connections.

Read more:
What is brain plasticity and why is it so important?

Music is also believed to have long-lasting effects on the brain. So much so that the brain of a musician is actually better connected more than people who haven’t played music. This can be important for people with neurological conditions, as music can help repair damaged connections over time.

This activation of multiple areas of the brain may be why neurological music therapy alone is more successful than other standard therapies. Given that many neurological conditions affect connections in the brain, the ability of music to activate multiple areas simultaneously could help bypass these problematic connections and create new ones – allowing people to overcome or better manage certain symptoms.

Although more research is needed before neurological music therapy can be widely used in healthcare systems, the early results of studies show just how promising this therapy can be. Research is also ongoing to see if it can be used to help people with age-related diseases. dementia or Alzheimer’s.

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