Art, Music, DanceStroke

Music helps recover from stroke

Researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland report that “everyday music listening during early stroke recovery offers a valuable addition to the patients’ care, especially if other active forms of rehabilitation are not yet feasible at this stage.

Music can be an individually targeted, easy-to-conduct, and inexpensive way to facilitate cognitive (reasoning) and emotional recovery.

First, the details.

  • 60 patients with a left or right hemisphere middle cerebral artery stroke were randomly assigned to a music group, a language group, or a control group during the acute recover phase of their stroke.
  • For 2 months, the music and language groups listened to self-selected music or audio books, respectively for 1 to 2 hours each day.
  • The control group received no listening material.
  • All patients received standard medical care and rehabilitation.
  • All patients underwent an extensive neuropsychological assessment, which included a wide range of cognitive tests, and mood and quality of life questionnaires at 1 week (baseline), 3 months, and 6 months after the stroke.
  • The researchers didn’t know the treatment the patients received (single blinded).

And, the results.

  • 54 patients completed the study.
  • Recovery in verbal memory and focused attention improved significantly more in the music group than in the language and control groups.
  • The music group also experienced less depressed and confused mood than the control group.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “that music, when applied during the most dynamic period of recovery from neural damage, can induce long-term changes on cognition [reasoning] that is [shown] by enhanced recovery of focused attention and verbal memory.”

The benefit of music on focused attention was greater in patients with damage to the language-dominant hemisphere. In addition, music listening (and listening to audio books) was associated with less depression and confusion compared to the control group. This might be a non-specific effect that may help stoke patients cope with the emotional stress brought about by sudden and severe neurological illness.

5/26/08 13:05 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.