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Can Music Heal the Brain?

by Annee 6 months ago in health
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You are what you listen to

Sounds are all around us, from birds chirping and waves lapping against a coastline to cars honking in traffic. But sometimes sounds are put together in purposeful ways to create a specific atmosphere or to express ideas or emotions. Such organized sounds are called music.

Music is a collection of coordinated sound or sounds. Making music is the process of putting sounds and tones in an order, often combining them to create a unified composition. People who make music creatively organize sounds for a desired result, like a Beethoven symphony or one of Duke Ellington's jazz songs. Music is made of sounds, vibrations, and silent moments, and it doesn't always have to be pleasant or pretty. It can be used to convey a whole range of experiences, environments, and emotions.

According to a review by Sihvonen et al. (2017), music therapy has shown significant effects in lessening the symptoms of multiple neurological diseases. It has primarily helped patients suffering from stroke and dementia, although there is evidence that music also helps Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.

Strokes are caused by reduced blood flow to the brain and can lead to motor impairments and even paralysis. Many types of music therapy can assist with strokes and related conditions. Rhythmic auditory stimulation combines rhythmic music with movement therapy and has helped restore motor functions in the arm. Movement sonification therapy converts gross movement into sounds and has been shown to reduce joint pain and increase smooth movements. Melodic intonation therapy is a singing-based speech therapy that has decreased symptoms of aphasia, a disorder affecting speech production and comprehension. It improves patients’ daily life communication and object naming. Finally, listening to patients’ favorite music improves cognitive functions such as verbal memory, focused attention, and lessens depression and confusion.

Music therapy can also be used to assist with dementia recovery. Dementia is the loss of memory function, mainly caused by Alzheimer’s disease and cerebrovascular disease. Music listening combined with physical exercise or cognitive exercises improves cognitive performance in patients in the early stages of dementia. Some studies showed that listening to music also helped reduce anxiety, agitation, depression and improved quality of life.

Music therapy combined with dancing, rhythmic movements, and gait training also leads to an improvement in patients with Parkinson’s disease, a disease that impairs motor functioning. In the cited study, patients had improved balance, mobility, velocity while walking, and even social support. Among the dances used in the studies, tango showed the best effects.

Multiple sclerosis, a motor disease, and epilepsy, a disease causing repetitive seizures, had very few studies on them. But among the studies, it was shown that keyboard playing improved hand usage in multiple sclerosis and regularly listening to Mozart decreased the frequency of epileptic seizures.

From the above analyses, it’s evident that music therapy definitely has a positive effect on treating neurological disorders. Further, the term ‘music therapy’ encompasses a wide range of possible therapies that can treat multiple motor, cognitive, emotional, and social deficits within neurological disorders. However, the exact mechanisms by which music therapy works are not yet known. Since music listening increases brain network connectivity and overall blood flow in the brain, one hypothesis is that listening to music increases neuroplasticity and neural reorganization. Another hypothesis is that listening to music increases dopamine secretion, the pleasure and motivation hormone. Music listening may also increase parasympathetic system activity, leading to overall body relaxation. Finally, the strong connection between the motor system and the auditory system leads to the hypothesis that music may co-activate the motor system and other damaged regions of the brain. Irrespective of the exact causal mechanisms, this review shows that music therapy has a lot of potential to help with symptoms of neurological disorders. In the future, music therapy can be made more accessible by creating products that patients can access in multiple environments, such as mobile apps, virtual reality headsets, and other music simulation systems.


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