Musical Medicine – Recovery After a MCA Stroke

Listening to music activates a network of brain regions associated with memory, motor functioning and emotional processing. Certain tunes can spark an individual to recall the lyrics of a song, even if they have not heard the song for several years. A certain song can help to recall a certain memory o time in your life in vivid detail. Music is found to enhance emotional and cognitive functioning, decrease the perception of pain and increase endurance during athletic endeavors. Music makes virtually everything more pleasurable from sitting in the dentist’s chair to waiting in line at the grocery store.

The amazing functions of listening to music have been expanded to determine if daily music exposure can aid in the recovery of traumatic brain injury, specifically after a stroke. The effects of music upon cognitive functions and mood have been studied among patients who had a specific type of stroke affecting the middle cerebral artery (MCA).

MusicPatients affected by a MCA stroke were randomly exposed to music, audio books, or did not receive auditory treatment (control group). All three groups received consistent standard medical treatment and rehabilitation; the only differing variable in their treatment was the type of audio therapy they were exposed to.

At 3 month and 6 month intervals post stroke, the patients were evaluated via cognitive assessment. The results of the assessment showed that the individuals who listened to music demonstrated an obvious increase in verbal skills, memory and focused attention when compared to the audio book and control group. The patients who listened to music also showed a decrease in depression and confused mood.

The findings show that exposure to music after a MCA type stroke can help in the recovery of brain processes and increase the quality of life for the sufferers. It is amazing that something as simple as listening to music can make such a large difference in the recovery of severe brain trauma.

Music can drastically improve the overall cognitive functioning and mood and seems like a simple yet extremely effective way of improving an individual’s quality of life and can amazingly repair brain performance after a devastating brain injury. Perhaps musical therapy can be utilized for future treatment of specific brain trauma, such as MCA-type strokes, and can be researched even further to expose other possible benefits.


T. Sarkamo, M. Tervaniemi, S. Laitinen, A. Forsblom, S. Soinila, M. Mikkonen, T. Autti, H. M. Silvennoinen, J. Erkkila, M. Laine, I. Peretz, M. Hietanen (2008). Music listening enhances cognitive recovery and mood after middle cerebral artery stroke Brain, 131 (3), 866-876 DOI: 10.1093/brain/awn013

Sabrina Behrens, MA

Sabrina Behrens, MA, is a freelance writer and psychotherapist. She holds a BA in English from UCLA and a MA in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University. She spends her free time reading, writing, baking and spending time with her family.
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