Music therapy improves function, neural reorganisation in acute stroke patients

October 7, 2020

A Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) post was installed by researchers at the Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), UK, at a stoke and rehabilitation unit in nearby Addenbrooke’s teaching hospital to great success – in just two years, almost 675 NMT sessions were run alongside existing stroke rehabilitation treatment, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and clinical psychology. Music therapy was found to help stroke patients through mood regulation and improved concentration and overall physical function.

In total, 177 patients took part in NMT sessions during this time. In addition to playing physical instruments (keyboard, drums and hand-held percussion), iPads featuring touchscreen instruments were used in some sessions to help patients with hand rehabilitation, through improving finger dexterity, and cognitive training.

A number of the patients, relatives and hospital staff who completed basic questionnaires said that NMT was significantly helpful to their rehabilitation while in others who completed mood scale questionnaires there was a reduction in “sad” and an increase in “happy” responses immediately following an NMT session. At the same time, speech and language therapists observed a positive impact on patient arousal and engagement, and said that NMT may well help patients overcome low mood and fatigue, both common in stroke patients.

“The fact that 675 sessions were carried out in two years [indicates] the success of the treatment. It shows that staff are referring patients because they understand the mechanisms of the exercises and can see how it can benefit their patients; it also shows that patients are willing to do the exercises, with each one participating in an average of five sessions at minimum,” said Dr. Alex Street, senior research fellow at ARU.

“Staff felt that using music and instruments allowed patients to achieve a high amount of repetition to help achieve their goals. They felt that the exercises appear less clinical, because the patients are playing music with the music therapist, and they are receiving immediate feedback from the exercises, through the sounds they create.”

However, Dr. Street concedes that further research is necessary to establish potential effects of music therapy on recovery rate and length of hospital stay for stroke patients.

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Category: Education, Features

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