Music to my ears – find out how sounds can help you maximize your independence after a stroke

June 28, 2018

After a stroke, independence becomes a huge priority for most patients. The disabilities that may result after a stroke often limit a person’s daily functions. That’s why rehab focuses so much on preserving a stroke patient’s function and independence. Being able to perform daily tasks and enjoy simple activities has a huge impact on quality of life. The better your brain works, the better you can carry out your own tasks and activities. Thus, maintaining and enhancing your mental capabilities help with your overall independence after a stroke.

An active brain can go a long way in stroke recovery

Cognitive-motor dual-task training (CMDT) is a type of exercise that can help you improve the function of both body and mind. This type of training involves you performing both a thinking task and a movement task at the same time. Research studies have found that training that improves your attention involves many of your senses simultaneously. One of these could be sounds that you hear while you train, which can help you improve function after stroke.

Coordinated sounds during training might help you process information

Timing training exercises with sounds containing repeating rhythms and steady tempo can help your brain. This is known as auditory-motor synchronization training or AMST. It works by helping you process the information from your exercise. By incorporating sound, you are better able to put all the information from your body in sequence and help your cognitive function as well. All this put together helps you with your stroke recovery overall.

Does synchronized sound really help?

Korean researchers recently compared the effects of CMDT with and without the help of sounds incorporated into the exercise. They conducted a randomized controlled trial and studied the effects of this training in 30 patients who suffer from chronic stroke. Half the patients received the sound synchronization while the other half received CMDT alone. All participants received three sessions a week for a total of 6 weeks. At the end of the training, everyone was evaluated for changes in cognitive function. These functions were assessed using standard psychological tests that ask patients to draw trails, count digits, and name colors of displayed words.

Sounds to make you sharper, faster, and more attentive

The results showed that synchronizing sound helped improve cognitive function more than CMDT alone. Patients had better scores in concentration and attention. Those who received sound synchronization had better attention span and ability. Patients who got the CMDT with sound were faster, sharper, and better able to pay attention to the tasks at hand.

What this means for your recovery

These findings suggest there is a great benefit to using sound feedback during training sessions in stroke. This discovery is important because we want to maximize our training to help stroke patients keep their independence. Talk with your doctor or therapist about the option of incorporating sound feedback in your rehabilitation. Being able to take care of yourself and complete your own tasks can mean a huge difference in both longevity and overall happiness. Best of all, there doesn’t seem to be any disadvantages that come with incorporating sound with physical training.

The lead author of this study was Dr. Myoung-Ok Park, Department of Occupational Therapy, Division of Health Science, Baekseok University, Cheonan, Republic of Korea.

Editorial note:

Adding sounds to your therapy can help you focus and improve the quality of your training.

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