This weekend marks the 130th anniversary of the first concert ever given
by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Over the years, science has proven the many
benefits of listening to music, from relaxation, mood enhancement, and exercise
benefits. But more recently, researchers have discovered a link between music –
or anything rhythmic – and brain plasticity, or rather the brain’s ability to
“rewire” itself following an injury.
Numerous studies have shown that training with a rhythmic auditory cue (such as music
with a strong beat) following a brain injury such as stroke has shown to result
in greater movement gains than doing the exact same training without the
rhythm. The Tailwind device for arm rehabilitation relies on rhythmic auditory
cueing as a key component to its ability to improve arm function and range of
motion for stroke survivors.
It is believed that exercising to music or other auditory cue, such as with a
metronome, may act on central neural facilitation mechanisms (i.e., may
increase neural activity in the brain.) Auditory rhythms appear to enhance
regular motor recruitment patterns. This suggests a relationship between the
auditory and motor systems. The ability of rhythm to retrain motor patterns
leads us to believe that music is a good tool for stroke rehabilitation
therapy. Next time you’re out for a walk, take along some music!