Neurologic music therapy refers to the therapeutic use of music to treat the effects of TBI. It has been successfully used on a variety of sensory, speech, and cognitive disorders that many brain injury survivors experience.
To help you decide whether music therapy is right for you, this article will explain the science behind it and what conditions it is most suited to treat. Before we get started though, let’s discuss what exactly music therapy is.
The Beauty of TBI Music Therapy
Music therapy is not really new. Cultures have utilized music as a healing technique for thousands of years.
However, with the advent of brain imaging technology, scientists were able to confirm what many instinctively knew: that music positively affects the brain.
In fact, music is one of the only sensory experiences that activates multiple areas of the brain bilaterally. This means that both hemispheres of the brain are engaged when listening to or creating music.
This has huge implications for brain injury patients, since one of the main goals in TBI recovery is to stimulate the brain and activate neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize neurons in response to changes in environment or experience. This allows the brain to compensate for lost function after a brain injury by reassigning functions to other, undamaged brain regions.
Because music therapy activates neuroplasticity, this makes it one of the most effective and exciting new therapies for TBI recovery.
Benefits of Music Therapy
There are several benefits that music therapy can offer TBI patients.
Music affects the brain in observable and repeatable ways. This has enabled researchers and therapists to design specific interventions to achieve the results a patient requires.
Below is a list of common conditions that therapists can use music therapy to treat.
1. Language Difficulties
Therapists most often use music therapy to help aphasia patients regain the ability to speak. Interestingly, people who have severe aphasia still possess the ability to sing.
That is because singing engages the right side of the brain, while speaking utilizes the left side. Since most speaking disorders occur after damage to the left side of the brain, the side that controls singing remains intact.
This fact led speech therapists to develop a technique known as melodic intonation therapy. Melodic intonation therapy involves singing simple words or phrases to the tune of familiar melodies. With enough repetition, patients eventually turn their singing speech into normal speech.
What’s more, most patients permanently maintain the improvements they gain. This makes it a very effective way to re-learn how to speak after a TBI.
2. Cognitive Dysfunction
Music therapy can also improve cognitive function, especially in the areas of memory, attention, and behavior.
Studies show that learning lists through singing activates the temporal and frontal lobes on both sides of the brain, while spoken-word learning activates only the left side. Therefore, to help improve your memory after TBI, a music therapist might use familiar music to help you embed information in song-form.
In addition, music therapy triggers neuroplastic changes in the orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain in charge of social behavior. This can help TBI patients recover social skills and decrease impulsive behavior.
3. Motor Dysfunction
Finally, exercising with rhythmic auditory stimulation, a form of music therapy, can significantly improve gait and walking speed.
In fact, during one study, when the music beat accelerated, patients who formerly had difficulty walking increased their step rate.
This can occur because one of the key aspects of skilled movement is timing. If you don’t have a good sense of timing, you won’t be able to correctly execute movements. But with music therapy, musical rhythms are used as cues to help people regain muscle control and synchronize their movements.
By combining movement with music, patients can effectively boost their brain’s neuroplasticity. In fact, that explains why music-based rehab devices such as MusicGlove help patients recover movement faster than traditional therapy.
MusicGlove works by motivating users to perform hundreds of therapeutic hand and finger exercises through engaging musical games – and it’s clinically proven to improve hand function in 2 weeks.
All of this is just one more reason TBI patients should consider trying music therapy.
Understanding TBI Music Therapy
Music therapy offers a cutting-edge approach to recovery from TBI. It improves cognition, boosts muscle control, and helps patients relearn speech.
Because it engages several different areas in the brain at once, it’s effective for improving overall brain function.
We hope this article has inspired you to incorporate music therapy into your regimen and boost your recovery.
Featured Image: ©iStock/RobertoDavid