Music Therapy for Epilepsy


Music is a large part of everyday life and culture. For many it can have quite a healing power. One of the diseases that I actively research is epilepsy. I have worked for around two years using flatworms as a model organism to study the effects and causes of epilepsy in humans. I mainly discuss the use of different drugs to help reduce seizures in epileptic patients but thought it would be interesting what studies have been done using music as a therapy. In this class, we discussed the benefits of music therapy on patients with a variety of different diseases. Being involved in epilepsy research I am always interested to expand my knowledge of the techniques that can help ease the symptoms of this disease. Of particular importance is that nearly 80% of epilepsy cases display seizures that start in the temporal lobe. Music is processed in the auditory cortex in the same area of the brain. Therefore, scientists have been increasingly interested in studying how music can be used as therapy for epilepsy patients. Music actually appears to have two effects on patients with epilepsy.

It is important to note that there is a rare type of epilepsy called musicogenic epilepsy in which music can induce seizures. A musicogenic seizure is a type of epilepsy triggered by certain genres of music or specific frequencies of pitch. The person may have a low threshold or tolerance for the certain type of music. Symptoms can be reduced using two different drugs and musicogenic epilepsy is well diagnosed. Despite this, many studies have considered the effects of music, particularly classical, on treatment of seizures. The music therapy that is used in many of these studies involves listening to music rather than playing it. Therefore, I use the term music therapy here in a different way than what we learned in class but I still believe this study is still highly relevant to this course.

One of the most infamous songs that has been studied in epilepsy research is Mozart’s K. 448. It has been highly questioned as to how beneficial this song has been to treatment of epilepsy. A song alone cannot be the cure or treatment but rather the combination of anti-seizure medication coupled with music therapy can have great outcomes on a patient’s health. The article I read reviews several studies that indicate an improvement in seizure occurrence in 70% or more of the patients when exposed to this song for six months. Particularly these studies focus on adolescence with epilepsy. Some children have been shown to even become seizure free after exposure to this music. Neuroscientists speculate that the unique rhythmic structure of K.448 may activate a wide neuronal network that evokes different rhythms that may have anticonvulsant properties. However, there is so much more that can be done in this field of study. So much is not known about the impact that music can have on epilepsy patients. I think really delving into the biology of the brain and seeing the impact music has on it rather than just looking at one songs benefits can really help to find treatments for this disease. I would find it to be very interesting if music playing rather than listening would have a different effect on treating epilepsy patients. This is a study that I would love to see conducted as I see the widespread benefits of playing music as therapy for many different diseases.


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