Music Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease

Neurologic Music Therapy, popularly known as Music Therapy, is an emerging method to help patients manage or improve various symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Music Therapy addresses the physical limitations that occur with PD as well as the speech and communication deficits that can progress with the disease.

How does Music Therapy for Parkinson’s disease work?

Studies show that music can actually help to preserve and even enhance cognitive function just by stimulating memories surrounding a song. The emotional experience of listening to favorite music can increase the release of Dopamine (DA), the brain chemical lacking in PD.

Playing and listening to music may modulate emotions, communication, movements and cognitive factors by modifying the activity of the brain areas involved in the perception and regulation of these aspects. Music can produce considerable effects on motor and psychological symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It can stimulate the production of neurotransmitters in certain patients, enhancing connections between the auditory and motor systems. This, consecutively, can help relax muscles and improve the patient’s walking and speech competency.

People who have participated in musical training are found to have better memory, executive function (planning, organizing, problem-solving) and visuospatial. Since playing music engages multiple areas of the brain simultaneously, translating music notes into sounds exercise PD patients fine motor movements, mathematical precision and emotional interpretation of the sound.

Customization of Music

Through listening to music, multiple brain areas are activated. In the long run, this leads to an increase in the volume and activity of the Corpus Callosum, the bridge that allows communication between the two different sides of the brain.

Since sound is an important non-verbal means of communication, Music Therapy approaches focused on the relationship between music therapist and the patient can produce substantial psychological improvements. The music therapist, with the patient, explores various musical styles or rhythmic patterns to establish which patterns will help him in improving walking, balance and movement.

Mostly, the patient with PD experience tremors. To address these, slow rhythmic music is used to slow down overactive body rhythms and induce relaxation and sleep. Making and listening to music can be considered as strong stimuli to activate the Limbic System and neurochemical circuits.

Various studies report that with focusing on the rhythm and feeling its pulse, PD patients can better walk or minimize freezing episodes. People with PD may have problems with articulation because of poor breath support and difficulties with the motor aspects of speech. During Music Therapy, patients are encouraged to sing and sustain single syllables to promote greater breath support. This aids in the throat muscle coordination and clarity of their speech.

Additionally, the music therapist proposes music-based exercises (in particular using rhythmical patterns) to improve motor, cognitive, and sensory functions, generally impaired by neurological damage.