Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) is a clinical approach based on research in neuroscience of music perception and production. NMT uses various music elements such as rhythm and melody in order to facilitate brain plasticity by activating non-damaged brain areas to recruit neural pathways to support recovery from brain damage. NMT sessions are usually designed to work on functional therapeutic goals addressing physical, cognitive, social and communication skills in order to maximize one’s ability to function in everyday life. NMT can be used for a wide variety of individuals including, but not limited to, people with Parkinson’s disease, stroke survivors, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, brain injury, cerebral palsy, and other neurological disorders.
Human beings are musical by nature. We posses internal time-keepers which operate in a synchronous, consistent manner (heart rate and respiration). Our bodies and brains are “wired” for music and we react unconsciously to external rhythmic stimuli. Because our entire brains are involved in the processing of music stimuli, music has the potential to integrate neurological activity, thus promoting improved overall functioning. The integration of sensory information can promote better understanding of sensory stimuli, improved ability to store and recall information, and increased cognitive stimulation which can impact all areas of functioning including movement and communication abilities.
Music therapists who are trained in NMT begin treatment with a clinical assessment to in order identify goals which will transfer into everyday life. Then the therapist provides specific exercises to target the goals. For example, if the need is to improve vocal projection, proper timing and force cues are given musically such as a steady beat and dynamic contrast to maximize the use of muscles and motor planning. If the need is to improve a functional movement in everyday life such as typing, finger exercises on the piano may be used with a focus on using music accompaniment to provide cues for timing, range, and accuracy of the movements.
Clients engage in repetitive, structured musical exercises to address physical, communicative or cognitive functioning. It is typical for individuals receiving this form of therapy to be given exercises and practice CDs to take home to increase the benefits seen with more frequent cognitive stimulation.