Listening to their favorite music helps stroke patients recover mental function and makes them less depressed and confused, Finnish researchers find. The study, by neuroscientists working together with music therapists, is the first to show that listening to music soon after stroke can have specific treatment effects.“Our research shows for the first time that listening to music during this crucial period can enhance cognitive recovery and prevent negative mood,” study researcher Teppo Sarkamo, a doctoral student at the University of Helsinki, Finland, said in a news release.
Sarkamo and colleagues randomly assigned 60 stroke patients to a music group, a language group, or a control group. All patients received standard stroke rehabilitation treatment. Those in the music group were provided with CD players and CDs of their favorite music in any musical genre. Those in the language group got tape players and books on tape, and those in the control group listened to nothing.
Patients assigned to the music and language groups were told to listen to music CDs or books on tape for at least one hour every day for the first two months after their stroke. All patients kept listening diaries; hospital staff and caretakers encouraged listening and, when necessary, helped patients work the CD/tape players.“We found that three months after the stroke, verbal memory improved from the first week post-stroke by 60% in music listeners,
by 18% in audio-book listeners, and by 29% in non-listeners,” Sarkamo says. “Similarly, focused attention- the ability to control and perform mental operations and resolve conflicts among responses- improved by 17% in music listeners, but no improvement was observed in audio-book listeners and non-listeners.”
Tomaino, the senior vice president for music therapy at Beth Abraham Family of Health Services in New York, says the Finnish researchers were successful because they were careful to find music that the patients found both interesting and emotionally stimulating.“What this study shows is that just listening to something that holds your attention and moves you can improve function in the damaged areas of the brain.”