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Music and
cognition functions

There are perceptual
mechanisms and neural systems that shared between musical cognition and
functions such as memory, attention and executive functions (Thaut, 2010). It
provides music to affect this general nonmusical functions (Thaut, 2010). There
is a link between music and cognitive functions: temporal order learning
(Hitch, Burgess, Towse, & Culpin 1996), spatiotemporal reasoning (Sarntheim,
Von Stein, Rappelsberger, Petsche, Rauscher, & Shaw, 1997), attention (Drake,
Jones, & Baruch, 2000; Large & Jones, 1999) and auditory verbal memory
(Deutsch, 1982). Attention and memory, the mechanisms that drive cognitive
processes in music, are shared by equivalent processes in nonmusical cognition.
Also, rhythm as a temporal structuring is an important shared mechanism (Conway,
Pisoni, & Kronenberger, 2009; Jakobson, Cuddy, & Kilgour 2003; Janata,
Tillmann, & Bharucha, 2002). “Chunking” is a mechanism that provide
declarative learning, recall and motor learning. Songs, chants and rhymes can
help to organize and chunk information into more manageable units (Verwey,

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There is a beneficial
effect of musical stimulation for overcoming visual neglect as a result of
right hemisphere lesions due to stroke or traumatic brain injury. The arousal
effects of music, specifically on the right brain hemisphere, may underline
this positive effect (Hommel, Peres, Pollak, & Memin, 1990). Moreover,
researches showed that auditory stimuli can enhance visual perception in neglect
states (Frassinetti, Bolognini, & Ladavos, 2002; Frassinetti, Pavani, &
Ladavos, 2002).

Attention to the
psychological functioning of patients as part of their overall executive
control is a substantial aspect of treatment. Neuro logic music therapy can be
used successfully to address psychosocial treatment issues (Kleinstauber &
Gurr, 2006; Nayak, Wheeler, Shiflett, & Agostinelli, 2000). In a recent
exploratory study, Thaut, Gardiner, Holmberg, Horwitz, Kent, Andrews et al.,
2009 examined whether specific techniques in neurologic music therapy could
improve cognitive retraining in traumatic brain injury rehabilitation. After an
intervention, executive function was significantly improved. There was also
significantly improvement in self-efficacy, self-confidence, and areas of
depression, anxiety and sensation seeking.

therapy in Parkinson’s disease

Music improves rhythmic
limb movements, gait, and freezing in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD)
are not new in the clinical literature, even though they are rather scarce (Swallow,
1990). In the research (Pacchetti, Mancini, Aglieri, Fundarò, Martignoni, &
Nappi, 2000), they gave the patients music therapy (MT) and physical therapy
(included a series of passive stretching exercises, specific motor tasks, and
strategies to improve balance and gait) every week for three months. MT sessions
consisted of choral singing, voice exercise, rhythmic and free body movements, and
active music involving collective invention. They assessed severity of PD with
the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale, emotional functions with the
Happiness Measure, and quality of life using the Parkinson’s Disease Quality of
Life Questionnaire. They found that MT is effective on motor, affective, and
behavioral functions. This improvement emphasizes an important effect of active
MT in PD: It promotes socialization, involvement with the environment, expression
of feelings, awareness, and responsiveness.

therapy in moderate and severe dementia of Alzheimer’s type

The case-control study
(Svansdottir & Snaedal, 2006) used music therapy as a selection of songs,
each of them was sung twice. There was an active participation of the patient
along with the therapist, both with instruments and by singing. The research showed
a significant reduction in activity disturbances in the music therapy group
during a 6-week period measured with the Behavior Pathology in Alzheimer’s
Disease Rating Scale (BEHAVE-AD). There was also a significant reduction in the
sum of scores of activity disturbances, aggressiveness and anxiety. Other symptoms
rated by subscales of the BEHAVE-AD did not decrease significantly. Four weeks
later the effects had mostly disappeared. They conclude that Music therapy is a
safe and effective method for treating agitation and anxiety in moderately
severe and severe AD. The study showed that activity disturbances, one of the
target symptoms of music therapy, can be affected positively in these kind of

therapy for substance abuse

In substance abuse
disorders, the main challenge is to engage people in treatment. In the study (Dingle,
Dingle, Gleadhill, & Baker, 2008), patient attendance rates and perceptions
of the music therapy were collected at the end of each music therapy session by
means of an anonymous survey. They use a cognitive behavioral music therapy
(CBMT): lyric analysis of songs chosen by the music therapist,
songwriting/parody to songs chosen by the music therapist, improvisation and
song singing/ listening. They found that the average attendance rate over the
7-week trial was 75%. The results indicated that enjoyment and motivation to
participate during the sessions was uniformly. The majority (83%) of
participants reported that they would attend another music therapy session, and
almost half (46%) endorsed that music therapy would help them to feel more a
part of the group. Furthermore, music therapy was able to engage patients
regardless of their age group. Patients who had previously shown minimal
emotional expression during group CBT were observed laughing and sometimes crying
during music sessions. They conclude that music therapy is a promising approach
to improving engagement in substance abuse treatment groups.


According to Svansdottir
& Snaedal, 2006, one of the advantages of music therapy is the seeming lack
of side-effects. Another advantage could be an increased interest on behalf of
the staff in caring for and treating the patients, which might decrease the
high turnover of staff in this kind of care. The results of this study thus
support the findings of many other studies and case reports that activity
disturbances and anxiety can be affected by the patient’s participation in
music therapy. There is, however, a need for comparison of music therapy and
pharmacological therapy in BPSD. Second, in the music therapy for substance
abuse disorders (Dingle, Dingle, Gleadhill, & Baker, 2008), they did not
make a control group, and did not measure the improvement of the patient.

In this review, I
showed the link between cognition and music through shared mechanisms such as
attention and memory. Such information can help the treatment with patients
that suffer from Alzheimer’s Type Dementia and substance abuse. Moreover, I
collected studies that showed how music therapy can improve cognitive and
emotional aspect in patients with different diseases: Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s
Type Dementia and substance abuse.

In my opinion, we
should make an effort to develop music treatment in psychology research and
practice. Nowadays this treatment cannot replace physical and medical
treatment, which can have side effects. This kind of therapy can contribute to
the special bonding between the therapist and the patient and to the group
binding. It seems that patients enjoy this action, develop self-efficacy, which
is very important for a progress, and prevent future recurrence.

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