Music May Help Your Brain Learn to Walk Again

2018.07 spinal injury and music

New research out of the University of Toronto suggests that music may help spinal injury patients move their legs again. Conducted by Michael Thaut, the director of Music and Health Research Collaboratory at the university, his research suggests all movements have some form of natural rhythm to them. Thaut then analyzed the effects of taking this natural rhythm and harnessing it as a rehabilitation tool for patients learning to walk again.

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The impact of music and movement

As reported by, Thaut started his research 25 years ago on the theory that using the right tempo in a song can help injured people suffering from spinal cord injuries improve their walking abilities. He tested this theory on patients suffering from strokes and Parkinson's disease. When these patients were attempting to walk on their own, it was slow, unsafe and achieved with minimal success. He then started synchronizing their movements with the tempo of a song. This allowed patients to time their physical movements with the beat. He noticed a considerable improvement in walking abilities with his patients. His research suggests that music therapy can help with movement for patients struggling with movements following a neurological injury, such as a brain injury or a stroke. 

How music relates to motor functionality

Further analysis revealed that the auditory systems in our brains are closely tied with our motor systems. When someone is injured, there is a loss of certain information within our motor systems that make it necessary for us to relearn simple movements. However, auditory supplements provide the brain with some of this additional information, which in some cases can help us control our movements better. Once a person has relearned simple movements, they no longer need music to help them keep time or develop a natural rhythm. Combining music and motor functions seem to be well-received by patients as a fun way to participate in therapy. However, the results vary from patient to patient.

The loss of motor functionality can be challenging

The loss of motor functionality can lead to many challenges for patients. While Thaut's research may lead to relief for some, others may still face a complicated road to recovery. For those who find success with combining their movements with a tempo in music, this opens incredible doors for their recovery and rehabilitation process following their injury.


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