Affinity for art may soothe stroke victims

By Shayna Brouker • Published: June 29th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Art is known to sooth the soul, and now it could heal the head. A study from the University of Rome Tor Vergata (tore ver-gah-tah) found that stroke patients who had an appreciation for the arts enjoyed more energy, better mobility and better overall general health. Scientists asked the group of nearly 200 stroke survivors whether they enjoyed the arts. Those who did also reported feeling happier, less anxious and depressed and had better memory and communication skills.

Music especially affects peace of mind because it releases the feel-good hormone dopamine in the brain. This surge of the feel-good hormone can help the brain recover from injury such as a stroke over time. In fact, a related study from Finland found that stroke patients who listened to music had better verbal memory and more positive moods compared with those who didn’t mellow out to their favorite tunes. Scientists say music serves as a sort of analgesic for the brain, warding off post-stroke depression and making patients more amenable to therapy.

Not only does music help stroke patients feel better, it can help them salvage their ability to speak, too. Even if a patient can’t say ‘Happy birthday,’ often times they can sing it.

More research is needed to determine whether other art forms have the same effect, but past studies have found that music also reduces anxiety in cancer patients, enhances pain relief and well-being in palliative care patients and even prevents organ transplant rejection by influencing the immune system.

But even if you’re perfectly healthy and stroke-free, you can reap the benefits of music. Whether you like reggae or rockabilly, music can help lower blood pressure, improve your heart rate and increase your ability to think and remember. Who knew your favorite singer could be such a lifesaver?