Researchers are looking to music as treatment for brain injuries, Parkinson’s, PTSD and even addiction


PUBLISHER’S NOTE: A few folks have asked me, “Why did you run legislation this year about music therapy?”

Vickie Sparks, Smyrna Softball MVP, Class of 1981 Tn State Runner-Ups

I responded by sharing my experience of my sister Vickie who sadly was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 30 years of age. Vickie is 59 now. After the brain tumor surgery she lost much of her short term memory. She moved back in with my mother and step father. Vickie suffered a terrible fall four years ago and hit her head she had a brain bleed and is now confined to a nursing home. She can no longer walk and suffered permanent brain damage.


One evening I stopped by Diversicare Nursing Home located in Smyrna where she resides. I saw her in her wheelchair at the exit door. As I’m walking up I could hear her singing a song. The song was ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ by John Denver.

“Country roads, take me home    
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads”

When she saw me she looked up and asked me ”How do I get out of this place?” I was surprised that she knew the words of the song, but interestingly she didn’t know who I was. It took her a while to know that I was her brother. 

I thought to myself there’s got top be something to the power of music for her to know the words, but not know my name. I had heard of music therapy from sing/songwriter J.T. Cooper who works with veterans suffering from PTSD. I later reached out to a few music therapist and visited with Parkin’s patients and watched the therapist interact with them.

With the current drug epidemic we are facing in America music therapy can only help move the needle to help people combat their ailments. 



Music Therapy and it’s Healing Potential

According to an article in The Conversation you probably don’t realise it when you’re listening to your favourite song, but music has an incredibly powerful effect on the human brain. Singing, playing an instrument or listening to music have all been shown to activate numerous areas of the brain that control speech, movement and cognition, memory and emotion – often all at the same time. Remarkably, research also suggests that music can physically increase brain matter, which could help the brain repair itself.


More intriguing is the impact that music can have even in cases where the brain may not be functioning as it should. For example, studies show that for people with Alzheimer’s, music can often spark a reaction, helping patients access memories that were previously lost. There’s also evidence of patients who have suffered brain damage and lost the ability to speak that can still sing when music is played.

Given the powerful effect that music has on the brain, researchers are investigating whether it can be used to treat many different neurological conditions – such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease or brain injury. One such treatment currently being investigated for use is neurologic music therapy.



Neurologic music therapy works a bit like physiotherapy or speech therapy, in that it aims to help patients manage symptoms and function better in their daily life. Therapy sessions use musical or rhythmical exercises to help patients regain functional skills. For example, patients relearning to walk after an accident or trauma might walk to the rhythm of music during a therapy session.

Talking, walking, thinking

So far, this type of therapy has shown promise in helping stroke survivors to recover language, improve walking and recover physical movement better than other standard therapies.

Researchers have also investigated whether neurologic music therapy can treat other movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. Most studies in this area have used a technique called rhythmic entrainment exercises, which uses the brain’s ability to synchronise with a beat unconsciously – such as having to walk to a specific speed of music or beat.

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