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The Impact of Music Interventions on ABI Rehabilitation

Acquired brain injury (ABI) can result in challenges with movement, language, mood, and affect the overall health and wellbeing of the survivor. Recently, music interventions have been explored as a therapeutic intervention for ABI rehabilitation. Some evidence in existing research has found music therapy to be effective in improving movement and positively impacting cognition. 

What Is Music Intervention? 

Music intervention refers to rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS), where sound stimulates brain functioning to involve movement, speech, cognition, and sensory perceptions. Specific activities involved in music interventions include:

  • Listening to music, which can help improve a survivor’s mood and mental state
  • Using rhythm as an aid for movement
  • Composing music or songwriting
  • Playing musical instruments to improve movements 
  • Singing to improve speech and language

Active methods that involve singing can be very beneficial to rehabilitate impaired speech functions as it requires survivors to control their breathing patterns, phonation, pitch, rhythm and volume. These interventions are delivered by healthcare professionals with clinical training in music therapy, who may also offer assessments and treatments. Music interventions are thought to activate neurophysiological processes through musical stimulations and rhythms to motivate movement and override pain perceptions associated with ABI symptoms. 

About This Study:

We will explore a summary paper that reviewed 21 clinical trials examining the effectiveness of music interventions in patients with ABI. These trials tested for the effectiveness of music interventions in comparison to the standard care of ABI survivors, who receive rehabilitation within a community or hospital setting. 

Primary Findings:

Researchers found that individuals who participated in the music intervention, improved their overall gait; walking velocity improved by 11.34 meters per minute on average, while stride lengths and cadence increased by an average of 10.77 steps per minute. Some trials also found that music interventions are associated with increased upper limb strength and improvements in repetitive arm movements, as participants showed improvements in elbow extension by 13.8%. 

Secondary Findings:

In addition to positive associations of music interventions in gait and upper body functioning of ABI survivors, researchers also summarized findings of communication, mood, social skills, behavioural outcomes, cognitive functioning and quality of life. 

In general, there were higher scores among participants of music interventions on the Aachen Aphasia Test that evaluates speech repetition, where participants repeated words after hearing them. Mood, which was measured by scores that indicated the individual’s level of depression, irritability, tiredness, confusion and forgetfulness, were more positive in those that participated in music therapy interventions. Additionally, those who participated in music interventions, specifically listening to live or recorded music, were found to have reduced agitation. The average measurement of quality of life amongst those who participated in music interventions was also greater than those who did not.

Music interventions can be a beneficial rehabilitation method for patients with ABI as they can help with walking, increase upper body functioning and communication, thus increasing quality of life. While the research in the field of music therapy for ABI rehabilitation is still growing today, current literature suggests many positive effects and benefits of music interventions in improving functions in ABI survivors. 


Magee, W. L., Clark, I., Tamplin, J., & Bradt, J. (2017). Music interventions for acquired brain injury. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (1). doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006787.pub3

Resource Alert!

Music Helps, is a new and upcoming community initiative that aims to improve the quality of life for socially vulnerable Canadians by facilitating accessible opportunities to create and enjoy music through performances, choirs, workshops, and presentations. For more information on how you can get involved, take a look at the poster below!Music-Helps Flyer


About the Author

Sarah volunteers as a BIAPH’s Mind Matters Research Assistant and Social Media Content Creator for the Invisibility Disabilities campaign. She is in her final year of Health Studies, and is minoring in medical physiology and pre-clinical specialization. Sarah enjoys learning about new research and interventions regarding acquired brain injury (ABI) and promoting ABI awareness.