Cognitive, emotional, and neural benefits of musical leisure activities in stroke and dementia
Dr Teppo SÄRKÄMÖa, Prof Mari TERVANIEMIa
a Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki
Introduction: The capacity of music to engage auditory, cognitive, motor, and emotional functions across cortical and subcortical brain regions and the relative preservation of music in ageing and dementia makes it a promising tool in the rehabilitation of ageing-related neurological illnesses, such as stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. As the incidence and prevalence of these illnesses is increasing rapidly, it is important to develop music-based interventions that are enjoyable and effective in the everyday care of the patients.
Methods: In two single-blind RCTs, the cognitive, emotional, and neural efficacy of self- or caregiver-implemented musical leisure activities was studied in stroke patients (N = 60) and persons with dementia (PWDs, N = 89). In stroke patients, daily music listening was compared to audio book listening and standard rehabilitation. In PWDs, regular listening and singing of familiar songs were compared to standard care.
Results: Original results showed that music listening enhanced the recovery of memory, attention, and mood after stroke  and that both singing and music listening helped maintain better cognitive functioning and mood in PWDs . Here, we will present recent results from voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analyses showing that the cognitive and emotional benefits of music listening after stroke are associated with structural neuroplasticity in a network of prefrontal and limbic regions . We will also present new results on how different clinical and demographical factors influence the outcome of the music interventions in PWDs.
Discussion: Musical leisure activities can provide an effective and easily applicable to enhance cognitive and emotional well-being after stroke and in the early stage of dementia.
 Särkämö T, et al. Music listening enhances cognitive recovery and mood after middle cerebral artery stroke. Brain. 2008; 131: 866-876.  Särkämö T, et al. Cognitive, emotional and social benefits of regular musical activities in early dementia: randomized controlled study. Gerontologist 2014; 54:634-650.  Särkämö T, et al. Structural changes induced by daily music listening in the recovering brain after middle cerebral artery stroke: a voxel-based morphometry study. Front Hum Neurosci. 2014; 8: 245.
Keywords : music, listening, singing, stroke, dementia, Alzheimer, neuropsychology, emotion