Power of Music on Neurological Disorders
The effect of music on the brain is different from the mind, because music has a
measurable effect the brain’s neural structure. In fact, even as an infant the human brain is able to
experience music. Indeed, infants’ developing brains may experience musi c and language as a
single proto -musical/linguistic hybrid before they learn to exactly differentiate each form of audio.
Music has strong connections to multiple brain systems, including systems involved in language,
motor control and social cognition. Ac cording to multiple research based on neurological
disorders, music training can increase communication and movement in patients. In this research,
we are able to see four different ways in which music -based therapy can help people with
neurological disord ers.
Aphasia is a language disorder caused by damage to the brain. In this research, they focus
on aphasia to strokes that lead to destructive human communication. Long strokes in the left frontal
temporal regions of the brain can lead to persistent non -fluent aphasia in which individual’s
difficulty communicating orally and writing a word. Standard speech therapy is helpful for many
people and the interest of individuals is growing up to recovery. However, there is an older music –
based therapy that is als o attracting attention. This is Melodic Intonation Therapy or (MIT), was
invented in the early 1970s at Boston VA Hospital by Albert, Sparks and Helm. Albert and
colleagues hypothesized that this was due to intact right hemisphere circuits for the song to speech
recovery. Melodic Intonation Therapy trains of short phrases, such as I love you, using song -like
pitch and rhythm patterns. Each syllable is intoned with a fixed or low pitch. The therapist models
a phrase and patient sings it back while also tappi ng the phrase’s rhythm with one tap per syllable.
The goal of the therapy is to increase their verbal fluency. Gottfried Schalug and colleagues are
comparing MIT to control therapy called speech repetition therapy, which is a simple repetition of
a word wi thout sung or tapping. They experimented a patient that was given 40 sessions of MIT
and the other 40 sessions of speech repetition. Both patients improved with therapy, but the MIT
patient showed larger improvements in the number of coherent phrases produ ced per minute and
in the number of syllables per phrase. After therapy, the MIT patient activated more right
hemisphere regions while speaking than did the other patient, who had speech repetition therapy.
A music -based therapy seemed to be changing the s tructure of the brain. In a more recent paper,
Huang, Schlaug and colleagues used Diffusion Tensor Imaging or (DTI), to examine structural
changes in the brains of 11 non -fluent aphasia patients who did MIT. These patients were on
average two years post st roke when they started therapy. This time they were compared to a control
group of non -fluent aphasia, who did not get MIT. This study focused on white matter structure
just below the cortex. Local white matter structure might be related to how many axons are coming
into a particular region or going out of the region. After 15 weeks of therapy, the patients showed
significant gains in communication in terms of how much speech they could produce in a given
amount of time. They also showed increases in local white matter structure in several regions of
the brain, including the right inferior frontal gyrus and the right superior temporal gyrus. This
suggests that the brain changes in this are related to the verbal improvements in the patients. It is
important t o note that the control group did not show significant improvements in fluency.
Parkinson’s disease with prominent motor symptoms results from the death of dopamine –
producing neurons in part of the deep brain structure called the substantia nigral, which is in the
midbrain. Prominent motor symptoms include shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement and
difficulty with walking and gait. Parkinson’s patients often have a kind of shuffling stride. The
problem is not muscle weakness, but a problem in complex moto r control. Michael Thaut did
research based on this phenomenon that showed music with a beat can help patients with the motor
disorder and coordinate walking movements. Thaut is one of the founders of music therapy called
neurologic music therapy, a resear ch -based treatment system for patients with neurological
disorders. Thaut and his colleagues have designed a music -based gait therapy called rhythmic
auditory stimulation. In rhythmic auditory stimulation therapy, patients practice walking to music
with a steady beat, such as folk and jazz music. The beat tempo is initially matched to the patient’s
own natural gait, then gradually increased in small increments over the course of training. In 1996
and 1997 Thaut and colleagues published a research comparing rhythmic auditory stimulation to
convential physical therapy in Parkinson’s patients. These studies focused on patients with
moderate gait dificits. Like the stroke studies, these studied showed that rhythm -based therapy led
to greater improvements in gait . The patients did not just walk to the music, they often
synchronized their movements to the beat of the music. fMRI research has shown that the
perception of beat -based rhythms leads to coactivation of auditory regions and motor planning
regions of the b rain even in the movements. In the meantime, it is interesting to see how public
awareness has begun to grow about the positive impact of moving to music for people with
We’ve been focusing on gait and movements of the lower limbs. Re search also looks at
the impact of music on the upper limbs in patients with motor disorders. These are patients with
strokes that affect their arm and hand on one side leaving it weak and uncoordinated. This is called,
a one -sided upper limb paresis or pa rtial paralysis. In these patients, their strokes that have not
affected their communication or they’ are not aphasia. As humans, we are very dependent on our
arms and our hands. In the brain, the human hand gets an especially large representation in senso ry-
motor areas of the cortex, because of the fine manual motor control involved in hand movement.
The researchers Eckart Altenmuller, Thomas Munte, Sabine Schneider and colleagues have
developed a novel, music -based therapy for those patients, they call in Music Supported Therapy.
The idea of the therapy is to use simple forms of music making the promote neural plasticity in the
undamaged brain tissue around the lesion to help it take over some of the functions of the damaged
areas. Alternmuller and colleag ues designed music supported therapy to take advantage of some
of the special features of playing music. One is that the degree of fine motor control needed to play
musical instruments is variable, depending on what instruments you play. A patient is train ed to
produce patterns on two different instruments. An electronic drum set is used to train gross motor
movements. An electronic piano keyboard is used to train fine motor movements. By using
electronic drum pads, the researchers can control the sounds th at come out when you hit. The
melodic pattern is the same in both cases, but the physical movements required are different.
Altenmuller and colleagues combined behavioural and brain measurements to see what changed
in the brain as a person went through the therapy. The patient was a woman who had a left
subcortical stroke about two years before the therapy. She had a moderate paresis of the right arm
and hand. She had no prior musical training. This allowed the researchers to see if this kind of
therapy wou ld work for someone who had never played a musical instrument before. The patient
was able to do music supported therapy. She had 20 sessions over the course of a month. Both
before and after therapy, she did a number of standardized tests of motor control , which had
nothing to do with music. After therapy, she showed improvement in the ability to grasp, grip and
pitch with her affected hand. She was also able to tap faster with hand and to tap more smoothly
with the fingers of that hand.
We mentioned that Parkinson’s mostly affects older adults, now let us focus on children
with autism. Autism Disorder Spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that affects about 1
in 110 children. Up to a quarter of autistic children do not communicate with others verb ally. Anew
form of therapy called Auditory -Motor Mapping Training aims to get nonverbal autistic children
to speak. It comes from the laboratory of Gottfried Schlaug and shares some features of the melodic
intonation. It involves intoning words and phrases while doing simple rhythmic movements. In
Schlaug and colleagues did a proof of concept study where they had six nonverbal autistic children
get 40 sessions of this therapy. In each session, a therapist sits across from the child with a pair of
tuned drum s that is between them. The drum makes different pitches. The therapist intones two
syllable set utterances, like memory or more please while also tapping out the pitches on the drums.
The child is gradually led from just listening to speech to producing s peech through a series of
intermediate stages. First, they just listen. After they are encouraged to produce the speech with
some support from the therapist. After that, they are encouraged to repeat what the therapist says.
Finally, they get to the stage where they can speak and play by themselves. As a result of their
efforts, all of the children in the study improved in a shorter time they were expecting.
Based on different researchers that is discussed in the paper we can come to conclusion
that music works as a magic that effects on every individuals brain. Infant or young, adult or elder,
music influences everybody’s brain which is result of emotion, communication, movements and
language skills. In this research we were able to see four different ways in which music -based
therapy helped a lot to overcome and improve their weaknesses.
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Neurology. 1973; 29:130 –131
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