Music therapy provided by trained music therapists may help to improve movement in stroke patients, according to a Cochrane Systematic Review. A few small trials also suggest a wider role for music in recovery from brain injury.
Many stroke patients acquire brain injuries that affect their movement and language abilities, which results in significant loss of quality of life, according to a press release. Music therapists are trained in techniques that stimulate brain functions and aim to improve outcomes for patients. One common technique is rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS), which relies on the connections between rhythm and movement. Music of a particular tempo is used to stimulate movement in the patient.
Seven small studies, which together involved 184 people, were included in the review. Four focused specifically on stroke patients, with three of these using RAS as the treatment technique. RAS therapy improved walking speed by an average of 14 meters per minute compared to standard movement therapy, and helped patients take longer steps. In one trial, RAS also improved arm movements, as measured by elbow extension angle.
“This review shows encouraging results for the effects of music therapy in stroke patients,” Joke Bradt, lead researcher on the study of the Arts and Quality of Life Research Center at Temple University in Philadelphia, stated in the release. “As most of the studies we looked at used rhythm-based methods, we suggest that rhythm may be a primary factor in music therapy approaches to treating stroke.”