Music Helps Restore Sight After Stroke

by Jodee on March 25, 2009

One of the more troublesome aftereffects of a stroke can be impaired vision. This is due to a condition called “visual neglect.” It causes the patient to have trouble seeing objects that are on the opposite side to the portion of the brain affected by the stroke. If the stroke was on the right side of the brain, the person’s vision will be affected when they try to see objects on the left, and vice versa. This symptom is present, even if the stroke didn’t affect the part of the brain that is associated with the sense of sight. In some cases, the patient may not finish food on one side of their plate or shave only one side of his face because of the vision difficulties this condition creates.

In a study conducted by Imperial College London, stroke patients who had visual neglect were asked to perform tasks under three kinds of conditions: listening to music they enjoyed, listening to music they didn’t like, and in silence. The participants were asked to identify certain colors or a red light from the vision field affected by the vision neglect. When they were asked to perform the task while listening to music they found enjoyable, they had greater success than when they tried to do the same activity in silence or while listening to music they didn’t like. It’s possible that the pleasant experience helps the brain to send signals more efficiently.

Researchers have stated that more work needs to be done in this area to delve into why a pleasant experience, such as listening to music, helps the brain work better following an event like a stroke. They will also want to see whether people with other forms of neuropsychological impairments have the same experience. Other pleasant experiences may help to improve brain functioning as well, and further studies will try to isolate what these are.

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