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Can music improve recovery from a stroke?

Published on October 21, 2014 at 14:41 / Updated on May 16, 2019 at 19:37

We give music numerous virtues. But can it also optimize the treatment of a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), better known as a stroke? This could very well be the case, as a new study suggests that listening to music shortly after suffering a stroke could improve a patient’s recovery.

Researchers compared the recovery of patients who had suffered a stroke and had listened to music for a few hours every day, to that of patients who had listened to audio books, as well as the recovery of individuals who had listened to neither of the two. The patients who were assigned to the “music” group were allowed to choose the type of music they wanted to hear. All patients also received the standard stroke rehabilitation treatment.

Three months after suffering a stroke, the patients who had been subjected to daily music listening sessions showed an improved recovery of their verbal memory and focused attention compared to their peers. In addition, they also had a much more positive attitude. Regrettably, we are unable to draw solid conclusions from this study as it only involved 60 patients. As it is easy, enjoyable and quite inexpensive, why shouldn’t every single patient be allowed to benefit from lovely music?

In the weeks and months following a stroke, studies have demonstrated that patients typically spend three-quarters of the time in their room, being inactive and without having any interactions. Yet, this window of time is ideal for rehabilitation activities aimed at stimulating the brain. It is thought that music works by activating the brain’s repair mechanisms after they were damaged, and by stimulating the regions of the brain involved in feelings of pleasure, reward and memory.

Listening to music could therefore be an enjoyable and useful addition to other types of active treatment for patients who are recovering from a stroke.

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