Rhythmic music offered by trained music therapists may help stroke patients restore mobility, according to a review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2010; 7, doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006 787.pub2). Researchers from Temple University in Philadelphia, the University of Louisville in Kentucky and the Wolfson Neurorehabilitation Centre in London conducted a research review of randomized and quasirandomized controlled trials that compared the effects of music therapy interventions and standard care with those of standard care alone or other therapies. Study subjects were all older than 16 years of age and had suffered nondegenerative brain damage. The review’s purpose was to examine the effects of music therapy on mobility issues, communication, mood, emotions and other factors.
The studies that showed the most beneficial effects from music therapy featured rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS), a technique used by music therapists that relies on connections between rhythm and movement. Music therapists who employ RAS with brain-injured stroke patients aim to stimulate movement in affected body parts by using music of a particular tempo. In these studies, patients who listened to music took longer steps and improved walking speed by an average of 14 meters per minute, compared with patients undergoing standard movement therapy. Reasons offered for why RAS was effective included the fact that auditory rhythm is processed bilaterally and stroke patients typically have damage in one hemisphere of the brain. When stimulated, no difference was observed in performance between left and right hemispheric patients.
Investigators noted that they excluded some studies from the review because they were not large enough or did not follow randomized controlled trial methodology. The studies that were included, while methodologically sound, also had small sample