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Music therapy linked to better recovery in stroke patients

Researchers say it can promote better mood and neurological recovery

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Consumers who suffer a stroke can face many difficulties when it comes to rehabilitation. Loss of motor function, difficulty talking, memory loss, and even emotional trauma can be hard obstacles to overcome, but a new study suggests that music therapy can be very beneficial to the recovery process.

Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) studied the outcomes of music therapy on nearly 200 patients over a two-year period and found that it helped improve patients moods and promoted better neurorehabilitation over time. 

“Our study found that Neurologic Music Therapy was received enthusiastically by patients, their relatives, and staff,” said lead researcher Dr. Alex Street. 

Benefits of music therapy

Over the study period, patients took part in 675 music therapy sessions that sought to help improve motor function and cognitive abilities. 

The process involved playing physical instruments -- like keyboards, drums, and hand-held percussion instruments -- and using iPads to improve finger dexterity. Patients also received standard stroke rehabilitation therapy like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and sessions with a clinical psychologist.

By the end of the study, hospital staff said that the participating patients were more engaged and enthusiastic and less prone to low mood and fatigue from therapy.

"The fact 675 sessions were carried out in two years is in itself an indication of the success of the treatment. It shows that staff are referring patients because they understand the mechanisms of the exercises and can see how it can benefit their patients. It also shows that patients are willing to do the exercises, with each one participating in an average of five sessions,” Street said.

"Staff felt that using music and instruments allowed patients to achieve a high amount of repetition to help achieve their goals. They felt that the exercises appear less clinical, because the patients are playing music with the music therapist, and they are receiving immediate feedback from the exercises, through the sounds they create.”

The researchers say more research needs to be conducted to fully understand the benefits of music therapy on recovery, but the results from this first study are promising. The full study has been published in the journal Topics in Stroke Rehabilitation.

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