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Music Mends Minds After Stroke

Listening to Favorite CDs Speeds Stroke Recovery
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Music Stimulates Neural Networks continued...

These between-group differences persisted six months after stroke. In addition, the music group had a less depressed and confused mood than the non-listener group.

"What these researchers show so eloquently is that music attracts attention from several parts of the brain simultaneously," Tomaino says. "Stroke damage is in a localized region. Music stimulates neural networks that bypass this region. This allows the recovery to take place."

Tomaino says the Finnish researchers were successful because they were careful to find music that the patients found both interesting and emotionally stimulating.

"To recover function, there are two fundamental pieces to music therapy," she says. "One, it has to grab your attention, and two, it has to move you. Music is complex. It has both analytic and emotional components and involves both sides of the brain. In stroke, attention and mood are most damaged. What this study shows is that just listening to something that holds your attention and moves you can improve function in the damaged areas of the brain."

Sarkamo cautions that more research is needed to validate the results of the study. And he notes that what works for one stroke patient may not work for another.

"I would caution people not to interpret this as evidence that music listening works for every individual patient," he says. "Rather than an alternative, music listening should be considered as an addition to other active forms of therapy such as speech therapy or neuropsychological rehabilitation."

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