Originally published March 29 2009
Music can Restore Vision after Stroke
by Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
(NaturalNews) Natural health doesn't only encompass exercise and nutrition. A new study by UK scientists from Imperial College London, the University of Birmingham and other institutions just published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science demonstrates sound can be used to facilitate healing. By listening to their favorite music, stroke patients with impaired vision were able to see better.
According to the American Heart Association, stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States and around 60 percent of stroke patients have impaired visual awareness. A type of stroke-related vision problem called "visual neglect" is caused by damage to parts of the brain that control vision, attention and action. The result of visual neglect is a loss of awareness of objects in the side of space opposite to the side of the brain that was injured. For instance, if a stroke occurs in the right hemisphere of the brain, a person tends to lose awareness of visual information in the left side of space.
"Visual neglect can be a very distressing condition for stroke patients. It has a big effect on their day-to-day lives. For example, in extreme cases, patients with visual neglect may eat only the food on the right side of their plate, or shave only half of their face, thus failing to react to certain objects in the environment," Dr. David Soto, the lead author of the study from the Division of Neurosciences and Mental Health at Imperial College London, said in a statement to media.
Researchers studied three patients who had lost awareness of half of their field of vision as a result of a stroke. The research subjects completed tasks while listening to their favorite music, while listening to music they didn't like at all, and in silence. The result? All three were able to identify shapes and red lights in their stroke-impaired side of vision much more accurately while they were listening to music they liked than while listening to music they didn't like or while performing the tasks in silence.
For part of the research, patients were told to press a button when they saw a red light. One research subject could point out the light in 65 percent of cases while he was listening to favorite music, but he only perceived the light 15 percent of the time when there was no music or music he didn't like was played.
What caused the improvement in visual awareness seen in these patients? The researchers think it could be a result of the research subjects experiencing positive emotions when listening to favorite music. The scientists looked at functional MRI scans to see how the patients' brains functioned during the different tasks. They found that when tasks were performed to pleasant music, areas in the brain linked to positive emotional responses from stimuli were activated. At the same time, the patients' awareness of the visual world was improved.
"We wanted to see if music would improve visual awareness in these patients by influencing the individual's emotional state. Our results are very promising, although we would like to look at a much larger group of patients with visual neglect and with other neuropsychological impairments. Our findings suggest that we should think more carefully about the individual emotional factors in patients with visual neglect and in other neurological patients following a stroke," Dr. Soto stated in the press release. "Music appears to improve awareness because of its positive emotional effect on the patient, so similar beneficial effects may also be gained by making the patient happy in other ways. This is something we are keen to investigate further."
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About the authorSherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.
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