Epilepsy patients may benefit from music therapy, study suggests

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Researchers have suggested that epilepsy patients may benefit from music therapy as a study has shown that brainwave activity in people with epilepsy tended to synchronize more with the music than that of people without the disorder.

The findings of the study, presented at the American Psychological Association’s 123rd Annual Convention, suggest that they could lead to development of new music based intervention for people with epilepsy that would help prevent seizures.

With 80 per cent of epilepsy cases being temporal lobe epilepsy wherein seizures appear to originate in the temporal lobe of the brain, researchers including Christine Charyton, PhD, adjunct assistant professor and visiting assistant professor of neurology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, channeled their research on the effect of music on epileptics because music is processed in the auditory cortex present in the temporal lobe.

The purpose of the study was to determine whether or not brain electrical activity in persons with epilepsy may synchronize with music differently than persons without epilepsy.

For the study, researchers compared the musical processing abilities of the brains of people with and without epilepsy using an electroencephalogram by attaching electrodes to the scalp to detect and record brainwave patterns. They collected data from 21 patients who were in the epilepsy monitoring unit at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center between September 2012 and May 2014.

The brainwave pattern data was collected while patients listened to 10 minutes of silence, followed by either Mozart’s Sonata in D Major, Andante Movement II (K448) or John Coltrane’s rendition of My Favorite Things, a second 10-minute period of silence, the other of the two musical pieces and finally a third 10-minute period of silence. The order of the music was randomized, meaning some participants listened to Mozart first and other participants listened to Coltrane first.

To their surprise, researchers found that there is a significantly higher level of brainwave activity in participants when they were listening to music. Further, Charyton said during the presentation that brainwave activity in people with epilepsy tended to synchronize more with the music, especially in the temporal lobe, than in people without epilepsy.

“We were surprised by the findings,” said Charyton. “We hypothesized that music would be processed in the brain differently than silence. We did not know if this would be the same or different for people with epilepsy.”

Researchers are not intending to replace current epilepsy therapies with music therapy, but they suggest that their findings might pave way for novel intervention which when used in conjunction with traditional treatment could help prevent seizures in people with epilepsy.