Saturday, November 13, 2010

Music as Medicine for the Brain

Source: Health, Matthew Shulman, 17 July 2008


Rande Davis Gedaliah's 2003 diagnosis of Parkinson's was followed by leg spasms, balance problems, difficulty walking, and ultimately a serious fall in the shower. But something remarkable happened when she turned to an oldies station on her shower radio: She could move her leg with ease, her balance improved, and, she couldn't stop dancing. Now, she puts on her iPod and pumps in Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." when she wants to walk quickly; for a slower pace, Queen's "We Are the Champions" does the trick.
Parkinson's and stroke patients benefit, neurologists believe, because the human brain is innately attuned to respond to highly rhythmic music; in fact, says Sacks, our nervous system is unique among mammals in its automatic tendency to go into foot-tapping mode.
Indeed, research on the effects of music therapy in Parkinson's patients has found motor control to be better in those who participated in group music sessions—improvisation with pianos, drums, cymbals, and xylophones—than in people who underwent traditional physical therapy. But gains were no longer evident two months after the sessions ended, so the best results require continued therapy. To stay motivated, Tomaino recommends seeking out both therapeutic drumming groups like Bausman's and social dance classes. Patients can also create music libraries for CDs or MP3 players that can be used to facilitate walking.
Because the area of the brain that processes music overlaps with speech networks, neurologists have found that a technique called melodic intonation therapy is effective at retraining patients to speak by transferring existing neuronal pathways or creating new ones. "Even after a stroke that damages the left side of the brain—the center of speech—some patients can still sing complete lyrics to songs," says Tomaino. With repetition, the therapist can begin removing the music, allowing the patient to speak the song lyrics and eventually substitute regular phrases in their place. "As they try to recall words that have a similar contextual meaning to the lyrics, their word retrieval and speech improves," she says.

Music, as a treatment, has been always practice in neurological conditions such as Alzheimer, Parkinson, anxiety and depression. The question is that why, or hat the music works? What happens in the brain when a patient listens to the music?
"The human brain is innately attuned to respond to highly rhythmic music".It's thought that the music triggers networks of neurons to translate the cadence into organized movement. Music, specifically a rhythmic music, acts as a stimulator that motivates motor neurones in patients suffering Parkinson disease with bradykinesia ( a difficulty initiating movement), to make muscles move!

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