Music therapy, which shows promise in helping patients recover from or slow the progression of neurological conditions, is now being offered to patients at CHI Memorial Hospital, officials said.
Dr. Thomas Devlin, a neurologist and medical director at CHI Memorial Stroke and Neuroscience Center, said during a media event Monday that neurologic music therapy is an emerging branch of rehabilitation medicine that works by stimulating areas of the brain in order to restore certain functions, such as speech or motor skills.
Music therapy often works alongside more conventional therapies, such as physical, speech and occupational therapy, to amplify their effects, Devlin said.
"It gets people very engaged and excited, and you can see it as people are participating in music therapy," he said.
Chyela Rowe, manager of arts therapies and well-being at CHI Memorial, said that although music therapy is commonly used in the behavioral health field, it has yet to gain popularity in other medical settings.
"A lot of people have this perception that music is just nice to have. It's not necessary," Rowe said in an interview following a media event to announce launching the music therapy program Monday. "That's unfortunate, because what we're showing here is that music is an active medicine that can help people recover."
In the past, Devlin said it was thought the brain wasn't capable of healing itself.
"We now understand that is not the case. ... The brain is able to actually regenerate brain cells. But more importantly and more dramatically, the brain is able to rewire itself with the brain cells that are there," Devlin said, which helps form the basis of the science behind music therapy.
Alexandria Rodriguez, CHI Memorial's board-certified music therapist, said during an interview that music therapy is commonly associated with stroke, trauma and Parkinson's patients.
Rodriguez said she recently worked with a stroke patient who was experiencing right-side weakness and a decline in executive function. Because he had a history of playing guitar, she was able to incorporate writing a song together into his therapy.
His muscle memory from being a musician kicked in, and Rodriguez said the patient was able to improve his coordination and became better able to complete tasks, which in turn helped him regain the ability to better navigate his daily life.
"That translates — maybe — to going to the grocery store later, being able to write his own list," she said.
Music therapy is also able to help patients beyond those with neurological conditions, Rodriguez said. She often works with oncology patients and others who are grappling with difficult diagnoses to emotionally process what they're experiencing.
Because the program is new, Rodriguez said officials are trying to spread the word that those services are available so that providers can refer patients who may benefit from music therapy.