Music Therapy Promotes Healing and Recovery for Stroke Victims

Have you wondered about other ways to promote healing for stroke victims? This article will introduce you to NMT!

Photo courtesy of Providence Doucet

There have been countless studies of how music therapy can help an array of issues, but research has found that it can be especially helpful for stroke survivors. Music can help multiple areas of the brain and is often incorporated into rehabilitation regimens. Traditionally, music therapy has been used for social-emotional science models, but new research shows that Neurologic Music Therapy can be extremely beneficial in rehabilitating stroke victims. 

What is Neurological Music Therapy? 

 Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) is the therapeutic use of music applied to cognitive, sensory, and motor dysfunctions due to a neurological dysfunction or diagnosis. This type of therapy uses rhythm and beats to retrain the brain. The process of rewiring the brain is formally known as neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is the act of the brain making adaptive changes because of the incident. The process in short is where healthy parts of the brain take over functions that were affected by the incident of the stroke. This is where researchers have essentially looked into how music therapy can help with the takeover of these functions within other parts of the brain. 

NMT specifically targets hemispatial neglect and uses active performance exercises on musical instruments that are structured in time, tempo, and rhythm. Another way that NMT is used is with receptive music listening in order to stimulate the hemispheric brain. Research data shows the beneficial effects of musical stimulation for overcoming visual neglect as a result of hemispheric lesions caused by a stroke. 

Researchers also tell us that daily interaction with music makes a difference for stroke victims. Pablo Ripollés says, “There is one thing you can do for those patients, even when they are in bed," he said. "Maybe they cannot move very well, but you can provide an enriched environment by having them listen to music." The evidence of the positive benefits of music therapy for stroke victims is astounding. 

There is a wide range of functions that include walking, talking, and cognitive activities. Of course, there isn’t only a function that NMT helps for stroke victims. 

Music can be extremely powerful according to researchers. Photo courtesy of Laura Chouette

Benefits of Music Therapy for Stroke Victims

Here are some of the major benefits that stroke victims can receive by using NMT.


  1. Promotes improved walking patterns

Music has been shown to help improve motor skills because there is a strong link between music and movement. Whenever you play music, it engages the part of your brain that is responsible for movement. Music is also considered a stimulus, so regardless it’ll definitely stimulate your brain. 

A common secondary effect of a stroke is called hemiparesis. This is when one side of the body becomes weak. This is common among stroke victims. Music therapy is seen to address the issues of gait (walking) patterns. A therapist may play music to help the person improve their walking skills by using the rhythm and beat of the music. 

  1. Improves speech

Language and communication skills are sometimes affected by a stroke. It occurs when the left side of the brain has been attacked or disrupted. The condition that impairs one's ability to produce or understand speech is formally known as aphasia, and it’s common among stroke survivors. 

Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT) can be suggested by a therapist. This type of therapy is an evidence-based treatment that uses singing to improve the expressive language of those who suffer from aphasia. MIT focuses on the right side of the brain, which usually is untouched by the stroke itself. Studies have shown that using MIT, creates less of a dependency on the left hemisphere and instead uses the right hemisphere, 

  1. Improves mood

Emotional and behavioral changes are common among stroke victims, It can look different for every person, but it is shown to affect the majority of victims. A clinical trial analyzed the efficiency of how music therapy aids stroke survivors to improve their overall mood. Music therapy can improve the quality of life and mood more than the traditional tactics used in recovering from a stroke. 

  1. Promotes cognitive functions 

Alongside speech, movement, and mood, NMT can help improve cognitive functions as well. Studies done on NMT and cognitive functions found that listening to music for one hour each day can improve verbal memory and attention. The reason that there are more studies being conducted on NMT is because of the accessibility it offers, and if it’s shown to help cognitive functions like verbal memory and attention span, then it’s worth giving NMT a shot. 

Listening to music can help boost the stroke recovery rate. Photo courtesy of Remy Gieling
  1. Boots stroke recovery rate

Music is a tool that automatically connects to the brain, and it certainly helps during the recovery process. The key is to repeat and repeat until your brain begins to recover and rewire itself. The automatic response by the brain is why music is so successful in rehabilitation. As mentioned before, neuroplasticity is key when trying to understand how and why NMT is so successful with recoveries. The more you perform a specific action, the faster the results will begin to manifest themselves. Remember that music immediately connects to our brain and its effects are seen quickly, as research shows. 

  1. Helps alleviate post-stroke depression 

There are many physical benefits to NMT but one of the biggest benefits is alleviating post-stroke depression, which affects many survivors. NMT has been proven to boost emotions and reduce feelings of depression after a stroke. 

Music therapy alone can be effective in battling post-depression after a stroke, but when combined with other cognitive therapies designed for depression, it can speed up the recovery time.

  1. Promotes a powerful mechanism for recovery

Similarly to boosting recovery time, mass practice, or the repetition of a certain activity to stimulate the brain can promote a powerful mechanism for recovery. The more you perform a specific action, the more likely your brain will begin to rewire itself and finally use a different part of the brain rather than using the damaged part of the brain. 

The human brain can rewire itself and that’s why NMT can play a key role in your recovery process. 

Understanding the importance of NMT 

There are so many other benefits that NMT can have for victims of strokes, much more than is listed within the article, but being aware of this type of therapy is crucial when trying to help a loved one after a stroke. One of the most important aspects of NMT is to keep the brain in action and constantly work the muscles that aren’t used to carrying most of the weight within your brain.

The brain is able to rewire itself, and that’s one of the amazing things about the human body. It can take time to recover, but it’s not impossible. After reading this article, what have you learned about NMT and what can you continue to learn about? 

Brandee Robles
Learn More >>
Make a Difference

Become a Music Therapist with Incadence

Incadence is transforming the health care industry. By joining our team, you can be a part of this revolution and a leader in health care.

Contact Us