Prevention & Recovery

Can music ease epilepsy symptoms?

Getty Images Image by: Getty Images Author: Canadian Living

Prevention & Recovery

Can music ease epilepsy symptoms?

A new therapy may be in the works for people who suffer from epilepsy, a chronic condition that brings with it recurring seizures: Listening to music.

Ohio State University researchers have found that the brains of people with epilepsy react differently from those who do not when they listen to classical or jazz music.These findings suggest that listening to music may be able to change electric impulses in the brain, calming people with epilepsy enough to actually prevent seizures, lead researcher Christine Charyton told the Toronto Star.

Charyton says that since seizures can be triggered by stress, these recorded brain reactions could mean the well-known relaxing effects of music may help people with epilepsy gain control and relax, thereby reducing the number of seizures they suffer, she told the Star.

The unpublished findings, recently presented in Toronto at the American Psychological Association’s 123rd Annual Convention, used electroencephalogram (EEG), with electrodes attached to the scalp to detect and record brainwave patterns, according to a press release.

The 21 participants who participated were patients from the epilepsy monitoring unit at the university's Wexner Medical Center between 2012 and 2014. Six were epilepsy in-patients, five had non-epileptic seizures and nine experienced no seizures, reports the Star.

Charyton, an ssistant professor of neurology, conducted the brain scans while her subjects were at rest and while they were listening to two pieces of music: Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D major, andante movement (K. 448) and John Coltrane’s rendition of “My Favourite Things.” Some participants listened to Mozart first and the others, Coltrane.

What Charyton and her colleagues found: Significantly higher levels of brainwave activity in participants when they were listening to music. And the brainwave activity in people with epilepsy appeared to synchronize more with the music, especially in the temporal lobe, than in people without the disorder.

A metronome effect
Charyton told the Star the effect was "Like two metronomes locked together and ticking in unison" or "like two balls bouncing at the same rate."

This finding is especially tantalizing because in about 80 percent of epilepsy cases, the seizures are thought to originate in the temporal lobe. Could music one day be harnessed to physcially prevent seizures in that region of the brain?

Music therapy has shown promise in other realms, including children's health, autism, dementia, cancer treatment and the anxiety and pain of surgery, so we'll stay tuned.

Read on for Diana Krall on the power of music and myths about the female brain.


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Prevention & Recovery

Can music ease epilepsy symptoms?