Stroke Awareness Month

Welcome to Ignite Music Therapy’s May newsletter edition!

Stroke Complications  
Strokes can be a life changing experience and I’m sure many of you know of someone who has had a stroke and have seen the changes that it can bring. After someone has a stroke, a variety of complications may appear. Often times it affects a side of the body and there can be loss of coordination and balance. Strokes also typically affect speech centers in the brain which can cause a variety of issues including slurred speech, lack of pronunciation, and difficulty recalling words. There can also be pain, anxiety, frustration, confusion, depression, and anxiety with this seemingly quick change of overall functioning. In this month’s article I want to focus on just a few of these complications; 1) motor control, 2) cognition, and 3) speech and language.

Benefits of Music Therapy  

There has been a lot of research done to understand the effects music therapy has on an individual who has suffered from a stroke and as mentioned above, the three areas I want to focus on that have shown great progress are motor control, overall brain cognition, and communication skills.


Regain Gross and Fine Motor Control

After a stroke many individuals experience loss of motor control. Through a variety of techniques, music therapy can help to rebuild the strength and coordination that was lost. Some of these techniques include utilizing the ISO-principle (matching where the patient is at – or the movements they are making and gradually altering the music to help elicit smoother and more natural movements), gait training (to help with movements related to walking), and even utilizing instruments to build hand/eye coordination and muscle strength. All three of these techniques have been discussed in past newsletters if you are interested in learning more.

Regain Communication Skills

Speech and communication are other areas that many people experience a change in after a stroke has occurred. Like other complications, communication changes occur because the brain is struggling to communicate with itself. Some areas of the brain can be affected more than others after a stroke and it takes time to build up those neurological pathways again. Music is a great medium in which to build up brain communication because music utilizes all areas of the brain. This is super important to understand because it means that even though one part of the brain might not be working correctly, the music can help build different pathways with areas of the brain that are functioning better so that these skills actually can be rebuilt and the pathways can be re-routed! Music is a very powerful thing, and through training music therapists know exactly what elements of music to change to create the most beneficial experience and progress!

Rebuild Connections in the Brain

As mentioned, music is a truly powerful medium in that it can change how the neural pathways in the brain work and communicate with each other. This concept comes in very handy when trying to understand how music therapy can help with overall brain functioning and cognition skills. After a stroke, patients will often struggle with memory recall, problem solving, and even with maintaining attention. Through music therapy and the concept of reworking how the brain is functioning, these obstacles can be overcome and show great improvement through a variety of interventions. For example, one way memory recall can be improved is by playing familiar songs and leaving parts of phrases out for patients to fill in. You know how you are able to remember all of the words to songs you haven’t heard for 10 years? Similar processing is used in the fill in the blank and other  interventions.

Closing Thoughts

Although I only focused on a few complications that can benefit from music therapy, there are so many other skill areas individuals can make progress in as well. Each person’s experience is different, which also means some interventions will work better than others depending on the individual’s needs. Overall, the potential for progress and growth are worth it.


If you are interested in reading research articles about the benefits of music therapy on individuals who have experienced a stroke, contact us at


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