Music Therapy Neuroscience
Music therapy neuroscience is an evolving field that utilizes the most up-to-date research in music and brain function to improve the lives of patients with neurological disorders. Neurologic music therapists share a common goal with other rehabilitation disciplines: helping individuals regain as much functionality as possible from their illness, injury, or disability.
Neurologic music therapy uses research-based techniques to address physical, cognitive and communication functioning as well as to promote a sense of self. Clients usually notice benefits after just a few sessions with their therapist and can maintain those improvements through continued practice with them.
Neuroimaging technology confirms that music engages a variety of cognitive functions such as attention, memory and planning (Thaut & Hoemberg, 2014; Hedge, 2015). NMT techniques like improvisation or practicing executive function skills have been shown to have an advantageous effect on general cognitive functioning.
Recent research suggests musical improvisation may be an effective tool to detect depression among clients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, by monitoring communicative behaviors during musical interactions such as vocal pitch and facial expressions. The researchers noticed a reduction in eye contact, altered speech rate and longer pauses between speakers’ turns that could be indicative of depression.
This study is an important contribution to our understanding of music’s therapeutic role in mental health. Not only does it provide a means of measuring mood and emotional state, but the findings can guide treatment planning and provide evidence-based support for its use in various contexts such as group therapies or individual sessions with clients.
Music’s association with neurological conditions was not fully understood until 1989, when scientists first observed that listening to songs with personal significance could activate areas of the brain associated with cognition. People living with Parkinson’s Disease also experience this connection when dancing along to their favorite tunes.
On the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, a character refers to music as a “salient stimulus.” This line of description accurately mirrors what research has demonstrated about how music can be an effective therapeutic tool. Studies have now confirmed that when people with Alzheimer’s Disease listen to songs that hold personal significance, areas of their brain linked to cognition activate during the listening experience.
This line serves as an excellent illustration of how music therapy neuroscience can be utilized to transform non-musical skills into musical ones and vice versa. It demonstrates the transformative design model’s power, which can be applied across many fields and therapeutic interventions to show how they can overlap and work together for client benefit.
This model provides a powerful framework for designing new treatments that utilize multiple capacities not readily available elsewhere. It has particular utility in designing novel treatments for neurological populations not currently served by other forms of rehabilitative care like diversional therapy, motor training or sports. The model assists rehabilitative professionals in understanding how to craft and deliver novel treatments utilizing music’s many therapeutic capacities in an enjoyable and universally accessible package.