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Music Therapy Can Lift Mood and Boost Rehabilitation of Stroke Patients

New research has found music therapy can have a positive effect on the neurorehabilitation of acute stroke patients, as well as their mood.

The study is the first large-scale investigation into the feasibility of delivering these exercise involving music therapy, according to researchers at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the United Kingdom.

The study was led by Dr. Alex Street and was carried out on a 26-bed stroke and rehabilitation unit at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, England.

In total, 177 patients took part in 675 Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) sessions over a two-year period, according to the researchers.

The researchers investigated the therapy’s success among patients, their relatives, and health professionals, with the results published in the journal Topics in Stroke Rehabilitation.

According to the researchers, music therapy helps stroke patients through mood regulation, improved concentration, and promoting changes in the brain to improve function, known as neural reorganization. Physical benefits include better arm function and gait, researchers add.

A lot of repetition, or “massed practice,” is central to neurorehabilitation, according to the researchers. In addition to playing physical instruments, such as keyboard, drums and hand-held percussion instruments, iPads featuring touchscreen instruments were used in the trial experiments to help patients with hand rehabilitation, through improving finger dexterity, and cognitive training, the researchers explained.

NMT sessions were run alongside existing stroke rehabilitation treatment, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and clinical psychology, the researchers added.

Of the 139 patients, relatives, and hospital staff who completed questionnaires, the average response was that NMT was “helpful” or “very helpful,” according to the study’s findings. Of the 52 patients who completed mood scale questionnaires, there was a reduction in “sad” and an increase in “happy” responses immediately following a session, the study discovered.

Speech and language therapists observed a positive impact on patient arousal and engagement, and reported that it may help patients overcome low mood and fatigue — both common following stroke — and therefore be beneficial for their rehabilitation, the researchers reported.

Following the success of the trial, the Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and Addenbrooke’s hospital are developing a proposal to establish a permanent NMT post on the stroke ward, funded by the NHS.

“Our study found that Neurologic Music Therapy was received enthusiastically by patients, their relatives, and staff,” said Street, a Senior Research Fellow within the Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).

“The fact 675 sessions were carried out in two years is in itself an indication of the success of the treatment,” he continued. “It shows that staff are referring patients because they understand the mechanisms of the exercises and can see how it can benefit their patients. It also shows that patients are willing to do the exercises, with each one participating in an average of five sessions.”

“Staff felt that using music and instruments allowed patients to achieve a high amount of repetition to help achieve their goals,” he said. “They felt that the exercises appear less clinical, because the patients are playing music with the music therapist, and they are receiving immediate feedback from the exercises, through the sounds they create.”

“Further research is necessary to establish potential effects of music therapy on recovery rate and length of hospital stay,” he concluded.

Source: Anglia Ruskin University

Music Therapy Can Lift Mood and Boost Rehabilitation of Stroke Patients

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2020). Music Therapy Can Lift Mood and Boost Rehabilitation of Stroke Patients. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 7 Mar 2020 (Originally: 6 Mar 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 7 Mar 2020
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