Music is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. The myriad of applications for music are impossible to list in full, but include relaxing, focusing, gaining energy, learning and achieving emotional healing. There is a reason that children learn their ABCs in a song, and there is also a reason that so many popular songs are written about love and loss. At its core, music really has a therapeutic quality that should be capitalized when treating patients with a traumatic brain injury.

While a great deal of our understanding about the healing powers of music comes from anecdotal notes and experiences, modern brain-imaging technology has made it possible to evaluate the exact ways that music changes and improves the brain. The realization of the brain’s plasticity in particular has helped scientists identify specific networks that, when triggered, can support language acquisition, cognition, motor control, and many more of the vital elements of rehabilitative care.

Research Relating to Music Therapy and TBI

While research has become stronger relating to music therapy and brain injury recovery in the last decade, two findings in particular stand out. The first explains that the brain areas activated by music are also activated by other functions, and the second states that music learning can actually change the brain. Since the areas of the brain that compute music are the same ones that process language, auditory perception, attention, motor control, and memory, this means that music can positively impact these systems by accessing and activating specific behavior. For TBI patients struggling with multiple setbacks related to language, behavior, and cognition, the potential for music is transformative.

The Many Benefits

Biomedical researchers have been busy uncovering the many benefits of music therapy for TBI patients, and the results haven’t disappointed. First of all, there is actually a connection between music and muscle control, which means that neurological music therapy can help TBI patients regain movement skills lost in their injuries. In addition, just as music is a tool to help children learn, it can also accelerate reading, speech, and cognition for those with brain injuries. Now researchers are looking toward music as a way to induce mood and emotion that might help brains struggling with depression, anger, and lack of control.