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Music may help stroke patients recover

March 27, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Music may help restore eyesight to people recovering from strokes, according to a new British study.The damage a stroke inflicts on specific parts of the brain can cause impaired visual awareness, called visual neglect, in some people. Patients with visual neglect are usually unaware of objects in the opposite side of their line of vision from the site of the brain injury. If the stroke damaged the left side of the brain, then patients can become unaware of items located to their right and vice versa.

Researchers found this happens even when there is no damage to the brain area associated with sight.

"Visual neglect can be a very distressing condition for stroke patients. It has a big effect on their day-to-day lives," lead author Dr. David Soto, of Imperial College London, said in a news release. "For example, in extreme cases, patients with visual neglect may eat only the food on their right side of their plate, or shave only half of their face, thus failing to react to certain objects in the environment."

The study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined three stroke survivors with visual neglect who were asked to complete vision-related tasks under three circumstances: listening to their preferred music; listening to music they didn't like; and in silence.

Researchers discovered that the patients were better able to identify colored shapes and red lights in the affected eye, when they listened to music they liked, compared to music they did not like or when sitting in silence.

"Music appears to improve awareness because of its positive emotional effect on the patient, so similar beneficial effects may also be gained by making the patient happy in other ways. This is something we are keen to investigate further," Soto said.

"Our results are very promising, although we would like to look at a much larger group of patients with visual neglect and with other neuropsychological impairments," Soto continued. "Our findings suggest that we should think more carefully about the individual emotional factors in patients with visual neglect and in other neurological patients following a stroke."


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