Music therapy could prevent epileptic seizures, new study shows

Epilepsy sufferers also see increased synchronisation with music next to non-sufferers

A new research paper presented at the American Psychological Association’s 123rd Annual Convention in Toronto this Sunday (August 9) suggests that music therapy could have numerous benefits for epilepsy sufferers.

The paper – based on a study of 21 patients – shows that the brains of those with epilepsy react differently to music. It’s hoped that the finding could be used to help prevent seizures.

The research was presented by Christine Charyton of Ohio State University, and applies to those with temporal lobe epilepsy, which accounts for around 80 per cent of all epilepsy sufferers.

Charyton’s paper explains that music is processed in the auditory cortex of the brain, also part of the temporal lobe.

NMETom Martin/NME

The research techniques were described as follows on science news website EurekAlert:

“The researchers recorded brainwave patterns while patients listened to 10 minutes of silence, followed by either Mozart’s ‘Sonata in D Major’, ‘Andante Movement II (K448)’ or John Coltrane’s rendition of ‘My Favorite Things’, a second 10-minute period of silence, the other of the two musical pieces and finally a third 10-minute period of silence. The order of the music was randomised, meaning some participants listened to Mozart first and other participants listened to Coltrane first.”

The researchers found significantly higher levels of brainwave activity in participants when they were listening to music. More importantly, Charyton said, brainwave activity in people with epilepsy tended to synchronise more with the music, especially in the temporal lobe, than in people without epilepsy.

“We were surprised by the findings,” she said. “We hypothesised that music would be processed in the brain differently than silence. We did not know if this would be the same or different for people with epilepsy.”

Researchers hope that their findings might be used to provide therapy in addition to normal epilepsy treatments, and assist in preventing seizures. For the 3 per cent of epilepsy sufferers who react to photosensitivity (flashing lights, a problem when it comes to viewing many concerts), a medically positive association to music can certainly be no bad thing.