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Originally published October 10 2008

Music Therapy Helps Patients Recover Brain Function Following Stroke

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) People who listen to music after a stroke recover significantly better than those who do not, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Cognitive Brain Research Unit at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and published in the journal Brain.

Researchers studied 54 people under the age of 76 who had suffered a stroke of the middle cerebral artery, in either side of the brain. This is the most common type of stroke.

Strokes are one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Stroke survivors often suffer from impaired motor control, speech and cognitive function.

The participants were randomly assigned into one of three groups. One group listened to the music of their choice (classical, folk, jazz or pop) for at least one hour a day, one group listened to a self-selected audio book for the same time period, and one group was given no auditory stimulation. All three groups were given standard treatment, including medical care and rehabilitation.

While prior studies have suggested that an environment rich with sounds can aid brain function, stroke survivors typically spend most of their non-therapeutic convalescence time idle. But this window just after the stroke is critical for restoring cognitive function, the researchers said.

Verbal memory scores in the music group improved 60 percent after three months, compared with only 18 percent in the language group and 29 percent in the control group. Ability to focus improved by 17 percent in the music group, which was significantly better than the control group and marginally better than the language group. In addition, those who listened to music showed significantly less depression and confusion after three months than those in the control group, and marginally less than those in the language group.

After six months, the differences in improvement between the three groups were similar.

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