Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wired for Sound (Summary)

Reference: December 2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine

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Written by: Oliver Sacks, MD, FRCP

Oliver Sacks, MD, the noted neurologist and author, describes the profound bond between music and our brains and how the simple act of singing can be good medicine

Dr. Oliver Sacks states that music has cultural and community relevance for human beings, it brings people together. However, he notes that music not only fundamentally creates a social bond, it literally also shapes the brain. Perhaps musical activity involves many parts of the brain (emotional, motor and cognitive areas), even more than what is used for language, suggest Sacks.

When music has been applied in Dr. Sacks practice in neurology, he states that he has seen patients with Parkinson’s disease who were initially non-responsive, become alert when music is applied in treatment. People with aphasia, which is a loss of the use of language most commonly caused by stroke, retrieve words, in song, they could not otherwise utter. He has viewed people with Tourette's syndrome, who may be distracted by physical and sometimes verbal tics, able to find means of managing or by-passing their tics through music, and people with extreme forms of amnesia, unable to remember what happened to them a few minutes ago, able to sing or play long, complicated pieces of music, or even to conduct an orchestra or choir. He also notes that in Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia sufferers are able to respond to music when no other treatment is able to reach them.

In closing, Dr.Sacks says that the profound bond between music and our brains and the simple act of singing can be good medicine at any age.


As a music therapist interested in the various means of evoking memories and responses through music, I found the article quiet intriguing. The examples that Dr. Sacks provided as to the various responses of patients with diverse diagnoses responding to music treatment is astonishing. Furthermore, this article written by Dr. Sacks, a practicing neurologist, provides more credibility to the value of music as treatment. The value for me comes from the cross-disciplinary practice; practitioners, aside from music therapist, who also see the value in music as treatment.

Moreover, I believe that at this time, in the field of music therapy, further cross-disciplinary research must continue, in order to bring the value of music therapy to the mainstream.

1 comment:

andrea said...

The brain's ability to respond to musical stimulus is truly astounding and is even more proof of the powerful connection between mind and body. Learning more about the structural brain abnormalities found within individuals diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in conjunction with the vast number of neural areas involved in music related tasks, it is easy to understand why participation in musical activities is such a positive part of treatment. Music stimulates a greater volume of one's brain than linguistic activities, and reaches areas that other motor tasks such as walking, etc cannot always access on their own, especially among those affected by diseases of the central nervous system (dementia, parkinson's, autism, etc). Proof seen through EEG brain wave analysis is now helping to prove the healing powers of music that observable results have shown for some time, and this evidence is now adding to its credibility. It is a step towards music becoming a more widely accepted therapeutic technique and hopeful for what it means for alternative medicine.