Why does music help in care?

Because it is rehabilitative.

Music induces neuroplasticity

  • Combats challenges of Parkinson’s Disease
  • Assists in speech recovery after a stroke
  • Improves functionality in spatial neglect

Neuroplasticity occurs when the brain forms new connections between different parts, to heal after an injury or to improve functionality. It takes a lot of time and hard work for new neural connections to form, but music can be extremely helpful in this process.

One of the most common symptoms experienced by individuals who have Parkinson’s Disease are movement-related challenges, such as tremors and freezing. These symptoms can make walking a very difficult task. In Parkinson’s Disease, the motor system in the brain which is responsible for sending instructions to muscles, does not receive important signals from other brain areas. This makes it increasingly difficult for the individual with Parkinson’s Disease to coordinate their movements. The rhythmic aspect of music can be used to combat motor challenges that occur in Parkinson’s Disease. Through a phenomenon known as auditory-motor coupling, the motor system of the brain is primed by music, and able to coordinate movements despite the missing inputs from other areas. Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation is a technique used for gait rehabilitation in Parkinson’s Disease, and other conditions such as traumatic brain injury, and stroke. Often, Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation is delivered co-modally with other physical rehabilitative practitioners.

Strokes most commonly occur in the frontal region of the brain, on the left side. This brain area has an important functional component known as Broca’s Area, which is responsible for producing speech. After a stroke, many individuals experience communication challenges due to a loss of function of Broca’s area. Interestingly, the speech area of the brain (Broca’s area) and the singing area of the brain are different anatomical locations. This means that individuals who cannot speak are often still able to sing. Speech therapists and music therapists use a technique called Melodic Intonation Therapy to help stroke survivors to rehabilitate their speech function.

Everyone in our society has some amount of musical literacy, because we are each exposed to it throughout the life course. Therefore, we all understand some of the underlying structures of music. Music can create anticipation, tension, relaxation, and these structures are used during the rehabilitative process for individuals who have spatial neglect. Neglect is a condition in which an entire spatial region is essentially unnoticed by the individual. For example, someone with spatial neglect will not perceive the food on the left side of their plate, will be unable to recognize their left foot to tie their left shoe, and in some cases may not shave the left side of their face. Musical instruments can be strategically placed, in a linear fashion, into the area of neglect. Because of the inherent structures within music, the brain will recognize that there is something in the space. Through training and practice, music can improve the functionality of individuals living with spatial neglect.