Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT), which is increasing being utilised to treat brain conditions and injuries, was among several key themes at the 2018 Chroma ABI Conference in London.

A growing body of clinical evidence shows that NMT can have a profound influence on the brain – by energising complex cognitive processes to return degrees of function and promote a route to a more independent life.

Research has shown that comprehensive early rehab packages with NMT as a component can record a saving of £1.3m per patient over a lifetime (Wood et al, 1982 / Oddy et al, 2013).

A 2017 Cochrane Review, meanwhile, concluded that music interventions may be beneficial for gait, the timing of upper extremity function, communication and quality of life after stroke.

Delegates in London heard how music’s ability to connect with the brain and open up pathways to recovery offers huge potential in neuro-rehab.

Daniel Thomas, managing director of Chroma, said: “Music therapy is at a tipping point as proof grows that it is clinically effective, as well as cost effective.

“In today’s economic and social climate, where more people need effective rehab due to stroke, Parkinson’s or more traumatic forms of brain injury, using NMT is one of the most efficient ways of treating people.”

Among the headline speakers at the event was Wendy Magee, a professor in the music therapy department of Temple University, Philadelphia, and a former clinician and researcher at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-Disability in London.

She said: “There is strong neurological evidence that music activates manydifferent areas across the brain. The motor system is very sensitive to picking up cues from the auditory system so when we hear music, particularly pulses or rhythms, it kicks straight into the motor system going around the brain.”

Also speaking at the conference was the University of Melbourne’s Dr Jeanette Tamplin, who has spent 20 years working in neuro-rehab and is pioneering the use of virtual reality to improve access to music therapy programmes.

She said: “Even people in the early stages of post traumatic injury or stroke who are really struggling to get any sound out can be helped by music therapy. In the same way that babies learn to make sounds beforewords, in music therapy we normalise experimentation with voice and sound through music in the rehabilitation of speech. 

“Rhythmic music also has an amazing effect on movement co-ordination. The hypothesis is that music can bypass damaged areas in the brain, providing a scaffold to do the part of the work the brain is not doing in co-ordinating movement.”

Caroline Klage, partner and head of thechild brain injury team at law firm and event sponsor Bolt Burdon Kemp said: “NMT can be beneficial in its own right but it can also encourage other therapies because it is a more palatable method of rehab. We are involved because we see it as an amazing and effective therapy.”

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