Music as ‘Medicine’ – The Music Brain Connection

“The power of music to integrate and cure… is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest non-chemical medication” – Oliver Sachs (Awakenings)

Over the last half century, music therapy has made tremendous strides as a scientific discipline. Music therapists work in hospitals, rehabilitation centres, nursing homes, prisons and schools. Research is still going on but it is believed that music can shorten the time to recovery of neural functions by promoting nerve cell regeneration and by directing the establishment of new neural pathways and connections.

It is as if music is able to trigger compensatory mechanisms – the so-called neural plasticity – that can help a person to recover from stroke or other brain damage.

Don Campbell, author of The Mozart Effect, put it this way: “The nervous system is like a symphony orchestra with different rhythms, melodies and instrumentations, meant to keep the brain synchronised. When there is damage, these natural rhythms get disturbed and neurons may fire at the wrong time or not at all. External music, movement and images can bring the “neurological music” back in tune.”

Listening Training can be an effective way to jump-start that process, particularly because of the intensity in 
stimulation and the use of the bone conductor, the small vibrator integrated in the headphones. Even with severe brain injuries, improvements have been observed. There is almost always some potential there that is not fully utilised. That goes for all of us.