Music & the Brain

February 3, 2021

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. Listening to music is not only a great way to pass the time, but it can take you to a ‘different’ place, ease your mind and escape the moment as you will. The benefits that we receive from music are numerous. Many of them occur without us thinking about what the sounds and melodies are doing. To learn more about what parts of the brain are involved, follow this link and click on the animation.

Listening to music can make you smile, reduce stress, lessen anxiety, ease pain. We all have individual preferences for the types of music we like, depending on our moods. Given the positive effects and healing powers of music on the brain, significant research is being done in this area. Music is now recognized as a healing therapy for neurological disease or injury, like 528 HZ music, reducing cortisol levels, and reducing stress.

Music therapy

Music therapy is a research and evidence-based practice and uses music and its characteristics to work on functional, non-musical goals. Because of music’s neural stimulus of the brain, it can be used with individuals with acquired brain injury, like the consequences of autoimmune encephalitis, to work towards various goals in speech/language, motor skills, and cognition.

Therapeutic music exercises vary depending on the target goals. Here are some examples of the skills that music therapy targets:

–       Increased speech and communication:  Patients who are unable to talk but have the ability to sing benefit from singing and music improvisation. Singing also helps with verbal communication skills such as breath control and speech timing. Singing and music improvisation provides an outlet for expressing feelings experienced by these patients, many of whom experience depression.

–       Regaining movement and muscle control: Patients lacking range of motion and muscle control spend many hours stretching and strengthening muscles. NMT practitioners find that playing music motivates patients to extend their physiotherapy times. Other techniques include: exercising to upbeat music, exercising mouth muscles, and drum playing to increase arm movement

–       Promoting cognition: Rhyming, chanting, or rapping can help develop sequencing skills while listening to music improves concentration. Studies have shown that easily distracted patients can focus on a song for as many as several minutes. Songwriting is another tool used to help with distraction. Many therapists promote cognition by setting phrases to music and assisting patients in creating songs with lyrics that contain important information.

More information:

How Music Helps to Heal the Injured Brain, Dana Foundation

Music and the Brain, Scientific American

American Music Therapy Association

Music therapy is part of our Living with AE program.