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Music in the treatment of neurological language and speech disorders: A systematic review

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Background: Acquired brain injury resulting from a stroke can result in impairments in, among other things, communication. Music therapy has been used in rehabilitation to stimulate brain functions involved in speech. The use of elements of music is well known and more often used in the treatment of aphasia and apraxia of speech.

Aims: The aim of the study is to synthesise studies on the effect of music parameters in the treatment of neurological language and speech disorders. In addition, possible mechanisms that explain recovery are investigated.

Methods & Procedures: Search terms were formulated based on the research question. A systematic search in databases was performed using these search terms. Then inclusion criteria were formulated and articles meeting the criteria were reviewed on patient characteristics, interventions, and methodological quality.

Outcomes & Results: A total of 1250 articles have been selected from the databases, of which 15 were included in this study. The Melodic Intonation Therapy was the most studied programme. Melody and rhythm were the music interventions that have been applied the most. Measurable recovery has been reported in all those reviewed studies using music in the treatment of neurological language and speech disorders. In three studies research was also conducted into the mechanisms of explanation of the measured recovery. However, the methodological quality of the investigated studies was rated as “low”, using the ASHA level of evidence indicators for judging research.

Conclusions: Although treatment outcomes were reported as positive in all of the 15 reviewed studies, caution should be used relative to conclusions about the effectiveness of treatments that incorporate components of music with neurologically impaired individuals. Methodological quality was rated as low and interpretations of mechanisms of recovery were contradictory. Suggestions for standardising and improving methodological quality drawn from the analysis are presented.

A revised version of this article has been published in a Dutch journal (Stem Spraak- en Taalpathologie).

Keywords: Music; Speech disorders; Treatment

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Rehabilitation Center “Revalidatie Friesland”, Beetsterzwaag, The Netherlands 2: School for Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience (BCN), University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands 3: Leiden University Medical CenterDepartment of Rehabilitation Medicine, Leiden, The Netherlands

Publication date: January 1, 2012


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