Help for Stroke Victims: The Role Music Therapy Can Play

Help for Stroke Victims: The Role Music Therapy Can Play

After a stroke, many survivors may experience aphasia. This is a disorder that impairs a person’s ability to understand language. Aphasia can limit a person’s ability to write, read, or speak.

However, even though a stroke may compromise a victim’s language skill, many survivors are finding a new method for communicating: singing.

Although being able to sing may seem like a bizarre treatment method for stroke survivors, research tells us it can help victims of aphasia also relearn how to talk.

Interested in learning more? Continue reading and we’ll show you how music therapy is an effective means of treatment that can bring help for stroke victims.

What Is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is a profession that has been used medically for over 60 years, yet many people still don’t really know what it is.

Music therapy doesn’t refer to teaching a patient how to play an instrument – that would be music education.

Instead, music therapy is about using musical techniques to accomplish specific goals related to cognitive, speech, and motor functioning.

While music can be very therapeutic on its own, music therapy involves a board-certified music therapist who delivers music based services within a client-therapist relationship to a patient who has therapeutic objectives and goals.

Where a psychotherapist would use talking as their primary platform for delivering therapy, a music therapist uses music.

As with cases of aphasia, music therapy can involve a patient singing. Moving to music can also help a person achieve goals that involve using their motor functions.

And listening to music can improve cognitive functions and also improve one’s mood.

Motor Skills

Music can bring benefits to more people than just those who suffer from aphasia. It has also been proven to improve motor skills thanks to the inherent connection between movement and music.

Music also provides people with a stimulus that is predictable. The steady beat and rhythm can help people build their coordination.

During gait training, music can often help stroke victims improve their ability to walk. For example, a music therapist may play music that’s familiar to a patient and has a strong beat. Patients can then correct an uneven gait or even walk faster and further when they walk in time with the music.

Speech

By using the power of cortical plasticity, stroke victims can form new and reorganize old connections between the neurons in the brain. Repeating activities that depend on skills helps make these connections.

Eventually, a person will regain the use of their limbs that were affected by stroke. We can apply this same concept to the correction of speech.

By creating new neural connections with the use of music therapy, people who suffer from aphasia can relearn how to talk.

By singing during a music therapy session, a stroke survivor who suffers from aphasia can improve and make new connections around their damaged speech centers and in their singing centers.

These connections may help patients eventually be able to talk normally again.

Cognitive Function

Music therapy has positive effects on a person’s ability to pay attention as well as neglect. This is besides improving motor and speech skills.

Music can activate several areas of the brain at the same time. This makes it an effective way to treat patients who suffer from left neglect.

Researchers have also found that music therapy can have a positive effect on a patient’s emotional state. Because music can hold and direct the attention of a patient, it can improve a person’s cognitive recovery while also stopping negative moods.

This is especially useful since one out of every three stroke victims suffers from post-stroke depression. Having depression after a stroke can delay a person’s recovery and inhibit their motivation.

We can also link depressive disorders to low levels of dopamine. However, when a person listens to a song, they are unconsciously expecting the climaxes in the music. And when those climaxes finally arrive, the person’s brain will release more dopamine.

This will reward perception while also boosting a person’s motivation.

How Familiarity Helps

Some forms of music may be more effective than others. Music that’s familiar to a person can bring up certain memories and emotions. This can deliver peace and comfort to a person who is undergoing a very stressful and traumatic event in their lives.

Ideally, a patient would be exposed to some music that is familiar and other musical pieces that are not. This is because different music, familiar and new, activates different parts of the survivor’s brain.

It’s a fantastic way to both improve mood and keep the mind stimulated — something that every stroke survivor can benefit from.

Understanding How Music Therapy Can Bring Help for Stroke Victims

By understanding how music therapy can bring about help for stroke victims, we can broaden our means for helping those who have been affected.

As we can see after reading the above, music therapy can be an excellent addition to physical therapy while also providing several benefits on its own. Those who have been affected by brain injuries or diseases would be wise to consider such options.

Are you interested in improving your speech, or that of someone you know, after a stroke? Check out our website today and schedule your free consultation now.