Music Therapy Helps With Recovery Post-Stroke

Stroke is a leading cause of disability, causing a sudden and overwhelming disruption in a person’s physical body and sense of self. Long-term recovery requires that bodily perception, social participation, and sense of self are restored.

A team of clinicians and researchers at the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at NYU Steinhardt and the Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Langone designed a group music-making intervention called Music Upper Limb Therapy-Integrated (MULT-I) to address the physical, psychological, and social domains of stroke rehabilitation.

“Music is one of the most powerful elicitors of spontaneous movement, and interactive music-making engages individuals and promotes relationship building,” said Alan Turry, managing director of the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy and the study’s senior author.

Thirteen stroke survivors took part in the 45-minute intervention twice a week for six weeks. During the intervention, a music therapist provided a musical framework through playing the piano, while an occupational therapist and second music therapist facilitated instrument playing among participants.

The researchers found that group music-making reduced impairment in the participants’ upper limbs, including hands, arms, and shoulders. They also saw improvements in participants’ sensory impairment, activity limitation, and overall well-being.

These results were still evident when the researchers followed up with participants a year later. At that point, the researchers also measured improvements in their daily living activities and social participation.

“The stroke survivors reported new feelings of ownership of their impaired limb, more spontaneous movement, and enhanced emotional engagement,” said Preeti Raghavan, MD, assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine and director of motor recovery research at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation, and the study’s lead author.

The results suggest that the intervention may help stroke survivors recreate their sense of self by integrating physical, psychological, and social domains. The findings were published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.