The Cochrane Foundation has conducted a review of evidence relating to the effectiveness of music therapy in aiding recovery from brain injury.
Music therapy is often used to aid improvement in multiple areas of brain function deficit and to improve quality of life, as well as facilitating physical healing. It is an adaptable therapeutic approach that relies not only on musical intervention but also on the integral relationship between patient and therapist. Previously, several small studies have investigated the usefulness of this approach, but no definitive conclusions have been reached.
In order to address this, an extensive systematic review by the Cochrane Foundation has recently combined the results of the previous studies in order to provide an overall picture of the effectiveness of music therapy.
Music therapy uses multiple approaches to focus on different problems. For instance rhythmic auditory stimulation is thought to aid movement, musical improvisation is thought to help emotional expression, while singing, oral motor and respiratory exercises are thought to assist speech. Even simply listening to music is thought to be a potential tool in the control of pain, which is notoriously problematic to treat in some cases.
Music therapy is generally considered to be an influential factor of functional change in both the musical and non-musical brain, although clinical appraisal has been lacking. Small sample size has often been a problem with previous studies and therefore data has been sparse.
The recent systematic review overcame this by pooling the results of several studies and the researchers reached some useful conclusions.
The review looked at 184 patients from seven studies. All the subjects were above the age of 16, had acquired non-degenerative brain injury after birth and were involved in music therapy rehabilitation programmes.
The combined results of these studies suggest that music therapy can be effective in treating the walking difficulties of stroke patients. However, its effectiveness in other problem areas and in the treatment of other types of acquired brain injury was inconclusive and therefore further research is needed.