After Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords suffered brain damage from being shot in the head in 2011, her doctors used a highly effective therapy that helped her brain recover in a short time.
But the specialists who use this therapy on patients are puzzled. They can’t understand why more of us don’t put this therapy to work in our everyday lives. It’s showing remarkable benefits for folks with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of memory issues.
This highly effective technique should be used by just about everybody.
The medical world just doesn’t give music therapy the respect it deserves.
Researchers writing in the medical journal Lancet point out that proof of music’s benefits were obvious in the “central role played by music therapy in the remarkable recovery of the Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who had serious damage to the left hemisphere of her brain after being shot in an attempted assassination.”1
After being shot, Giffords couldn’t speak and it was found that having her sing small pieces of songs at first helped her rapidly get back the ability to form words and sentences.
A similar approach was strongly advocated by Dr. Vincent Fortanasce last fall in our Awakening from Alzheimer’s video summit. His dementia patients respond amazingly well to hearing their old favorite songs, and singing them leads to revival of other lost memories. It’s one of a battery of therapies Dr. Fortanasce is using to reverse Alzehemier’s, as he’s able to prove by before-and-after memory tests.
Dates Back to Biblical Times
Music therapy nowadays is having a hard time getting more attention. But Wendy Magee, who is with the music therapy program at Temple University, explains that music has a long tradition as a treatment for the body and brain: “There are references to music being used therapeutically as far back as in Biblical times.”
One example of music therapy in the Bible occurs when David plays the harp to calm down King Saul and free him from the grip of “evil spirits.”2
And while you might think it’s obvious that soft music can soothe a tense mind, medical researchers looking into the effects of music have shown that there are definite changes in brain function that correlate with hearing music.
Scientists at the University of Helsinki, Finland, have shown that listening to classical music activates genetic activity in the brain that increases the secretion of dopamine – an important neurotransmitter involved in helping us feel rewarded. Music also epigenetically bumps up the transmission of impulses between neurons and sharpens memory and learning.3“Epigenetically” means the activity activates certain genes.
Epigenesis can also mean suppression of gene activity. Another benefit of music is that it turns off the interactions of genes that can derail brain function and lead to neurodegenerative problems.
According to these researchers, when we listen to music, the brain goes into cognitive high gear. And it is singularly effective in people who have been trained as musicians or singers.
Helps Mood and Memory
Besides helping stroke victims recover and aiding the brain-injured like Ms. Giffords restore speech and memory, music therapy has been shown to improve the mental state of people with Alzheimer’s disease and make them more communicative.
As the online community Alzheimers.net explains, music can:
- Evoke memories that enhance the memory function.
- Restore physical and emotional closeness.
- Increase activation of the brain.
- Improve mood, reduce stress and stimulate interactions with others.4
I don’t need much urging to listen to music, and probably most readers will agree. Why not use it therapeutically while you’re at it? Studies have even found that comforting music can improve the function of your blood vessels and lower blood pressure.5
Whatever ails you – listening to your favorite tunes may improve your health even if you don’t sign up with a music therapist.