Vocal music improves language recovery in patients after stroke; Study

By Amirtha P S, Desk Reporter
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A new study published in the ‘eNeuro’ journal has found that listening to music daily improves language recovery in patients who have experienced a stroke. 

The study conducted at the University of Helsinki and the Turku University Hospital Neuro center compared the effect of listening to vocal music, instrumental music, and audiobooks on the structural and functional recovery of the language network of patients who had suffered an acute stroke. Further, it examined the links between such changes and language recovery during a three-month follow-up period.

Based on the study, it was found that listening to vocal music improved the recovery of the structural connectivity of the language network in the left frontal lobe compared to listening to audiobooks. These structural changes correlated with the recovery of language skills. However, the neural mechanisms underlying the phenomenon have so far remained unknown.

“For the first time, we were able to demonstrate that the positive effects of vocal music are related to the structural and functional plasticity of the language network. This expands our understanding of the mechanisms of action of music-based neurological rehabilitation methods,” said Mr. Aleksi Sihvonen, Postdoctoral Researcher.

Aphasia, a language impairment resulting from a stroke, causes considerable suffering to patients. Current therapies help in the recovery process of language impairments, but the results vary and the necessary rehabilitation is often not available to a sufficient degree and early enough. Vocal music can be considered a measure that enhances conventional forms of rehabilitation in healthcare.

According to Mr. Sihvonen, listening to music could be used as a cost-efficient boost to the normal recovery procedures or for rehabilitating patients with mild speech disorders when other options are scarce.

After a disturbance of the cerebral circulation, the brain needs stimulation to recover as well as possible. This is the goal of conventional rehabilitation methods as well.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the time spent in hospital is not stimulating. At these times, listening to music could serve as an additional and sensible rehabilitation measure that can have a positive effect on recovery, improving the prognosis,” Mr. Sihvonen concluded.

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