A Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist summarized the health benefits of music this way: “It provides a total brain workout.” Therefore it comes as no surprise that music can benefit people with a range of degenerative neurological conditions. Here’s a brief look at how and why music works as a therapeutic measure for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), multiple sclerosis (MS), and other neurologic disorders.

How the brain “plays” music

Clinicians have known for decades about the diverse neurological pathways that music stimulates. “[It} is processed diffusely throughout the brain,” reported a Psychosomatic Medicine report, “where networks for the processing of music and its components such as melody, pattern, meter, and tempo overlap with networks that govern other human functions.”

The “other human functions” referred to in the study include “singing, voice exercise, and rhythmic and free body movements.” So, while we know that music and motion combine to have strong therapeutic value across many conditions, the question remains: why do people with neurological disorders – specifically Parkinson’s disease – benefit so extensively from its effects?

Music Therapy is something we actively educate our staff about because we have seen such great benefits. In neurological conditions, there’s often a lot of anxiety involved when your body and mind are not on the same page and having music that ignites positive feelings can be a great help.

Christina Hahn, RN, MSN

SeniorBridge Care Manager Supervisor

As neural pathways are activated by music, attention increases. This explains why conditions that affect cognitive processing, such as Parkinson’s, can be treated with music therapy. Emotions and memory also come into play as music is heard, enhancing mental states, motivation, and overall quality of life.

Research tells us that there are two important catalysts that unlock the therapeutic value of music for PD. The first is familiarity.

“Our analysis clearly suggests a particular dependence of enjoyment on music familiarity in PD [emphasis added],” said a 2019 Frontiers in Neuroscience study. “Certain music connects the listener with previous events…and the people, places and emotions that played a part in them,” the report said. This points to the strong relationship between memory and music that we at SeniorBridge see in our care for people with Parkinson’s.

The other factor, documented in the same study, is encouragement. In our experience caring for people with neurologic conditions, we understand that people with PD are navigating a maze of emotional symptoms, often depression. They forget or neglect the impact of music on their mood. This is why, as the research reported, Parkinson’s patients “may underrate the value of music in their lives, [and] they may need and benefit from encouragement to actively engage in music.”

Occurrence of depressive symptoms


illustration of woman listening to music with headphone.

People with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and epilepsy suffer from the emotional effects of their condition one-fifth to one half of the time, according to a 2015 World Journal of Psychiatry literature review. A variety of other studies indicate that music holds the key to effective therapy for these and other mental health conditions.

Breaking down music’s therapeutic power

“Music has…benefits for people with neurological disorders such as dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD),” said a 2020 Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews article, affirming what earlier work had established. But this study then asks the question: What are the properties music possesses that make its impact so strong?

Music, according to the Therapeutic Music Capacities Model. has 7 attributes that “account for its impact on health and well-being, and its ability to serve as a non-pharmaceutical treatment for neurological disorders.”

  • Music is engaging
  • Music is emotional
  • Music is physical
  • Music permits synchronization
  • Music is personal
  • Music is social
  • Music is persuasive

For home care professionals, music has even more benefits. It’s safe. It has no harmful side effects. And it makes our clients happy.

The integrated care management model by SeniorBridge

Home care services vary widely in the services they provide.

SeniorBridge offers an integrated care management practice model that involves two components:

  1. Clinical care (under the direction of an RNCM/Registered Nurse Care Manager) supported by a Social Worker and a team of caregivers, based on patient’s needs and
  2. A portfolio of home care services and geriatric care management in such areas as nutrition, caregiver education, benefit coordination, transportation, and coordination with discharge planners, physicians, pharmacy, home health agencies, and care managers.

NOTE: We have full COVID-19 safety protocols in place to keep clients, families and associates safe.

For more information on hypertension home care support services, contact SeniorBridge.

Sources consulted:
Psychosomatic Medicine (2000)
Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience (2020)
World Journal of Psychiatry (2015)
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews (2020)

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