Music, memory, and neurorehabilitation

For many AE patients and family members, time seems to stand still during the long hours spent in the hospital, infusion centers, traveling, or even at home while recovering. This might be eased by the simple pleasure of listening to music. While classical or jazz may be pleasant to one patient, it might not be for another, so trial and error may be necessary. And science has now recognized the benefit of music for our brains. New imaging techniques have proven that “the brain areas activated by music are not unique to music; the networks that process music also process other functions” (language, auditory, attention, memory, executive and motor control). Secondly, it has now been shown that “music learning changes the brain” (Thaut and McIntosh). Lancet Neurology this month featured an article that highlighted a program in the UK called “Why Music? The Key to Memory.” It has been noticed by researchers that for people with dementia, often “music can provoke an emotional response when no other stimuli can.” The article stated that music memory seems to survive in patients even when other types of memories do not. Researchers from various disciplines have noted benefits in improving gait in stroke patients, executive function and emotional adjustment in TBI patients, and cognitive abilities in older patients with mild-moderate cognitive impairment. Let’s borrow these great ideas and do all that we can to at least somewhat ease the burden of a difficult illness like AE. The internet abounds with many options for listening. Various meditation and relaxation audio recordings are available also; even centers like the Mayo Clinic now record relaxation CDs. For further reading on this general subject of music in neurorehabilitation, please click here.

 Post by Lynn Chapman