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Music As A Bridge To Consciousness

There are striking anecdotes of how music can bring previously here are striking anecdotes of how music can bring previously unresponsive individuals “back to life.”  Could this activating function of music also be helpful in other disorders that disconnect individuals from their loved ones? Recently, interesting findings have been made on how music could be used to stimulate individuals with disturbances of consciousness, and how brain responses to sound could be used to trace the progress of recovery from conditions as severe as coma.

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In addition to being serious disruptions of health, disturbances of consciousness cause great personal distress to the families and loved ones of patients. Finding new ways to make contact with and activate individuals in these states would thereby not only improve the status of patients but also potentially alleviate the suffering of those close to the patient.

Why and how might music offer relief to patients suffering from disorders of consciousness and their families?

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Music is one of the most activating stimuli for the brain. Hopefully in the future, well-conducted studies will corroborate the accumulating anecdotal evidence on the positive effects of music for enriching the recovery setting, for prediction of clinical outcomes, as well as for strengthening the feeling of connection between the patient and their caretakers and loved ones.

Written by Ketki Karanam

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References

1. Bodart, O., Laureys, S., & Gosseries, O. (2013, April). Coma and disorders of consciousness: scientific advances and practical considerations for clinicians. In Seminars in neurology (Vol. 33, No. 02, pp. 083-090). Thieme Medical Publishers. doi: 10.1055/s-0033-1348965

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2. Särkämö, T., Tervaniemi, M., Laitinen, S., Forsblom, A., Soinila, S., Mikkonen, M., et al. (2008). Music listening enhances cognitive recovery and mood after middle cerebral artery stroke. Brain 131, 866–876.  doi: 10.1093/brain/awn013

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3. O'Kelly, J., James, L., Palaniappan, R., Fachner, J., Taborin, J., & Magee, W. L. (2013). Neurophysiological and behavioral responses to music therapy in vegetative and minimally conscious states. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 7, 884.  doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00884

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 4. Rollnik, J. D., & Altenmüller, E. (2014). Music in disorders of consciousness. Frontiers in neuroscience, 8. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2014.00190

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5. Juan, E., De Lucia, M., Tzovara, A., Beaud, V., Oddo, M., Clarke, S., & Rossetti, A. O. (2016). Prediction of cognitive outcome based on the progression of auditory discrimination during coma. Resuscitation, 106, 89-95. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2016.06.032.

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6. Schall, U. (2016). Is it time to move mismatch negativity into the clinic?. Biological psychology,116, 41-46. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2015.09.001.