The Benefits of Music for Neurological Illnesses

Music is an essential tool in the process of neurological rehabilitation. Patients that have suffered a stroke, that have Alzheimer's, epilepsy, Parkinson's, or multiple sclerosis have shown improvements after music exposure. Discover the benefits of music for neurological illnesses!
The Benefits of Music for Neurological Illnesses

Last update: 04 May, 2021

The benefits of music for neurological illnesses are undeniable. British neurologist Oliver Sacks notes that music can calm us down, improve our mood, excite us, and help us perform better at work! Sacks also discovered throughout his career that music was very useful for patients with neurological issues.

We’ve all read or heard at some point that music has an astonishing effect on people that suffer from Alzheimer’s. In those silent worlds where memories and life itself are blurred, simply listening to a song from their youth can impact a patient emotionally and behaviorally. It’s almost as if the brain “wakes up” after a period of rest.

This helps us understand that there are areas in the brain that remain intact, despite the cognitive deterioration associated with this type of dementia. The brain preserves the regions linked to long-term musical memory.

However, music doesn’t just have a positive effect on neurodegenerative illnesses! Music therapy can cause interesting changes in patients with depression, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and even in those that have suffered a stroke. So, it’s worth taking note of this neuro-rehabilitation approach!

The benefits of music for neurological illnesses

The use of music therapy in medical and neurological rehabilitation is becoming increasingly common. Studies like the one carried out by Ralph Spintge from the Department of Pain Medicine at the University of Lüdenscheid in Germany tell us that music has a very positive effect when it comes to treating pain, and motor rehabilitation.

For example, the fact that patients with Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis can improve their quality of life is, without a doubt, is encouraging. Specialists still don’t know about the benefits of music for neurological illnesses in great depth. However, it’s clear that music can’t cure or reverse any kind of condition.

What the evidence does show, as doctor Moisés León Ruiz, member of the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN), notes is “an improvement in the neuronal activation, of the neuro-regulation, learning, and neuroplasticity“. The effect is especially noteworthy in patients with Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia.

healthy brain neurons artists interpretation

Music is essential for psychological well-being when aging

In a study conducted by the Brain Research Unit at the University of Helsinki, doctor Teppo Särkämö notes the benefits of music for neurological illnesses like dementia. This is where the benefits are the most encouraging, as we’ve already mentioned.

  • Music generates sensory, motor, cognitive, and heavy emotional responses in patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or with any other kind of neurodegenerative illness associated with aging. It also activates the temporal regions in the brain like the cerebellar.
  • In addition to that, specialists have also seen improvements in people that have suffered from cerebrovascular accidents that present speech problems (aphasia), within neurological rehabilitation. The main difficulty patients have with expressing themselves verbally is reduced.

Benefits of music for epilepsy

Among the benefits of music for neurological illnesses, there’s one that specifically stands out: its anti-epileptic effect. In fact, something that specialists have been able to see is that music therapy is capable of reducing up to 24% of the number of attacks or epileptic fits that patients experience.

According to a study conducted by doctor Aleksi J Sihvonen at the University of Helsinki and published in the journal The Lancet, music has a notable effect on regulating the dopaminergic system. By which we mean that it has a relaxing effect on a neuronal level. And, although it doesn’t stop attacks completely, it does reduce them, which is very positive!

man listening to music with eyes closed

Music and its effect on depression in patients with neurological illnesses

Depression is a comorbid condition in many neurological illnesses, like cerebrovascular accidents, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s. It’s very common for these conditions to emotionally affect patients, which can lead to a mood disorder.

In fact, the benefits of music for neurological illnesses also extend to this area. For example, music therapy improves patients’ adherence to treatments. By this, we mean that people feel happier and are more receptive to pharmacological and psychological treatments.

Studies like that conducted by doctors Alfredo Raglio, Lapo Attardo, and Guilia Gontero at the University of Pavia in Italy, also explore this relationship. Music improves mood in patients with neurological conditions. Therefore, this is something that we should keep in mind, especially when it comes to creating a plan for patients with so many needs.

There aren’t many treatments that are more economic or as easy as music; music excites us and gives us a little encouragement on a daily basis!

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