Music to the ears

By Lauren Edwards • Published: August 19th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When someone suffers a stroke, recovery can be a long, hard road.

But a recent study published in the Oxford University Press journal Brain is giving a bit of hope to stroke patients and their families.

Researchers found that stroke patients who listened to music for a few hours a day saw more improvement in attention span and verbal memory than patients who did not tune in.

The study involved sixty people who had just suffered a stroke of the middle cerebral artery in either the right or left side of the brain, the most common type. Most of the participants suffered from attention, memory and movement problems.

Researchers randomly divided these patients into three groups: Some listened to music, some listened to stories read aloud and some did neither. At study’s end, researchers found that the patients who listened to music had a sixty percent boost in verbal memory, compared with eighteen percent for audio book listeners and twenty-nine percent for the non-listening group.

Additionally, patients who listened to music found a seventeen percent improvement in their ability to focus and experienced less depression than the other groups.

Researchers say the study marks the first time music alone has shown a constructive effect on brain injury patients. They postulate that the act of listening to music may activate the brain areas that are trying to recover, helping to repair important neural networks that have been damaged by stroke.

And that truly is something to sing about.