Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Neurologic Music Therapy: Music to Influence and Potentially Change the Brain

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Neurologic Music Therapy: Music to Influence and Potentially Change the Brain

Article excerpt

As a follow up to the last article in the healing series about stuttering and the implications for beneficial music interventions, I have chosen to focus this issue on the Neurologic model of Music Therapy (NMT). This model has gained attention in the past year in the media with the story of US Senator Gabby Giffords, whose recovery was vastly improved through her use of this model in her music therapy sessions. Alongside a review of recent media reports on NMT, this article will provide a definition, a list of who benefits, a summary of client training, techniques and goals of NMT, and education and training for music therapists.

What is Neurologic Music Therapy?

Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) is the therapeutic application of music to cognitive, sensory and motor dysfunctions due to neurologic disease of the human nervous system (Thaut, 1999). It is a scientific model that uses musical interventions to achieve functional goals. NMT is used for neurologic rehabilitation, neuropediatric therapy, neurogeriatric therapy and neurodevelopmental therapy.

Who Benefits from NMT?

Clients who may benefit from NMT comprise those with a variety of neurologic disorders including: cerebral vascular accident, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, Huntington's disease, cerebral palsy, autism, visual impairment, and developmental delays. NMT is a research-based system that employs standardized clinical techniques in the areas of sensorimotor training, speech/language training and cognitive training (Clair, Pasiali & LaGasse, 2008).

Training, Techniques, and Goals

Sensorimotor Training: The goals of sensorimotor training are to improve posture and gait, and facilitate upper extremity movement (Thaut, 1999). Some techniques for this are Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation, Patterned Sensory Enhancement, and Therapeutic Instrumental Music Playing. Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation, the most researched of all NMT techniques, facilitates intrinsically rhythmical movement and is used most prominently to improve the speed and stability of gait. Music provides an external time cue to regulate the body's movement. This taps into the neurological mechanism of audio-spinal facilitation, in which auditory stimuli excites neurons in the spinal cord, priming muscles for movement. This phenomenon causes the automatic motor responses that occur when listening to music, like tapping the feet. Music that is rhythmically structured can entrain the timing of muscle activation, therefore making movements more rhythmic and efficient. Patterned Sensory Enhancement is used to cue various types of movement in any area of the body. Specific musical elements are used to represent different aspects of movement (rhythm indicates timing, pitch indicates direction, duration indicates range of motion, and volume indicates amount of force). Musical patterns are used in series to guide functional movements such as reaching, grasping, lifting, sitting or standing (Thaut, 1999). Therapeutic Instrumental Music Playing improves movement ability and strength by having clients play instruments to stimulate exercise and functional motion. Instruments are positioned to increase range of motion, strength, endurance, coordination and dexterity (Clair, Pasiali, & LaGasse, 2008).

Speech and Language Training: Speech and language training incorporates a variety of techniques to develop and improve speech and communication skills (Thaut, 1999). Melodic Intonation Therapy is used to develop speech in those with aphasia and apraxia. Since singing ability is less impaired than speaking ability, phrases can be sung with speech-like intonation and inflection which helps to facilitate actual speech. This technique is based on a protocol of Sparks and Holland (1976). Musical Speech Stimulation uses well-known songs, chants, or rhymes to prompt initiation or completion of phrases. Rhythmic Speech Cuing controls rate of speech and intonation. …

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