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Music May Help Stroke Patients

Stroke Patients With Visual Awareness Problems Fare Better on Test While Listening to Music They Like
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 25, 2009 -- Listening to music you like is a mood booster, and it may also help stroke patients with visual awareness problems do better on neurological tests.

That news appears in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

British researchers -- including David Soto, PhD, of Imperial College London -- studied three patients with visual "neglect" due to stroke.

Those patients had trouble seeing items on their right, if their stroke had affected the left hemisphere of their brain, or on their left, if they had stroke damage on the right side of their brain.

First, Soto's team played music by Kenny Rogers, Frank Sinatra, hip-hop artist Rakim, and several bands -- Sonic Youth, the Ramones, and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Each patient indicated how much they liked or disliked each piece.

Next, the patients took visual awareness tests that challenged their stroke-related weak areas of visual awareness. They took the tests during silence, while listening to music they liked, and while listening to music they didn't like.

The patients performed "markedly" better on the visual awareness tests while listening to music they liked, Soto and colleagues report.

That improvement came with activity in brain areas related to enjoyment, according to a functional MRI brain scan that one of the patients got while taking the tests.

The results are "very promising," but larger studies are needed, Soto says in a news release.

"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," Soto says.

Music might not be the only way to help patients.

"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," Soto says. "This is something we are keen to investigate further."

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