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Introducing Music Therapy to a Neuro Rehabilitation Unit – Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury and Stroke

JB Music Therapy has partnered with the Neuro Rehabilitation Unit at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada to pilot a Music Therapy program for patients recovering from brain injury, stroke and spinal cord injury.

The new partnership includes a music therapy group and individual sessions coupled with documentation to evaluate treatment effectiveness and the level of patient satisfaction. Learn more about the program in this recent report: Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Department of Clinical Neurosciences Annual Report 2015-2016, highlighting the team that is bringing this project into fruition.

“Music has far fewer potential adverse effects than some medications would, so I think it’s another tool that we could be using.” Dr. Stephanie Plamondon

In the context of Unit 58 Music Therapy is the therapeutic application of music to rehabilitate cognitive, motor, and sensory dysfunction due to disease. Its treatment techniques are based upon scientific knowledge of music perception, production and its effects on nonmusical brain and behaviour functions like gait, balance, speech, mood and motivation. 

“Music Therapy is not a technique, nor a series of techniques – but is a professional discipline that certifies its’ therapists to ensure personalized treatment and care for patient needs – thus a well-suited addition as a vendor for Alberta Health Services in a variety of settings including Neuro Rehab.” – Jennifer Buchanan

Evidence demonstrates that the auditory and motor systems have rich connectivity across a variety of cortical, subcortical and spinal regions. The auditory system is a fast, precise processor of information that projects into motor structures in the brain, creating entrainment between the rhythmic signal and the motor response.

A large number of clinical studies have indicated the effectiveness of rhythm and music to produce functional change in motor behaviours and a wide range of physiological effects on the human body including changes in heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, skin temperature, and muscle tension.*

Music Therapy is also well known to provoke emotions mediated via neuro-hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, and is experienced as joyous or rewarding through activity changes in the amygdala, ventral striatum and other parts of the limbic system.* 

Samantha Harber, MMT, MTA is one of several Music Therapists from JB Music Therapy and is the principal therapist on Unit 58.

A Music Therapist is an allied health professional working most commonly in health care, education systems, and diverse community agencies.  MTAs (Certified Music Therapists) use music intentionally to help clients reach individualized goals in mobility, communication, and emotional well-being and are trained to know how to best use music without harm.  The cognitive neuroscience of music is a quickly emerging field with applications that are just beginning to be adopted into rehabilitation hospitals within our neurologic population.

This program is made possible through the support of public donations.  If you are interested in supporting the program please contact:

Jason Knox, Manager, Unit 58, 403.944.2096

*Thaut, MH and Abiru M. Rhythmic auditory stimulation in rehabilitation of movement disorders: A review of current research. Music Perception; 2010: 10(4), 263–269. ISSN 0730-7829, ELECTRONIC ISSN 1533-8312