New research presented at the American Psychological Association’s 123rd Annual Convention suggests that listening to relaxing music like Jazz or Mozart may aid in treatment of seizures. The study showed that epileptics’ brains react differently to such tunes compared to those without the disorder.
Most cases of epilepsy – nearly four fifths – are a variant known as ‘temporal lobe’ epilepsy. This means the seizures appear in the temporal lobe of the brain, which also happens to be the same region of the brain where music is processed by the auditory cortex. This lead researchers to devise an experiment where 21 epileptic patients from the The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center would be monitored with an electroencephalogram (a device used to analyse brainwave patterns by attaching electrodes to the scalp) while they listened to music. Patients first listened to 10 minutes of silence, then either Mozart’s Sonata in D Major, Andante Movement II (K448) or John Coltrane’s rendition of My Favorite Things would play, followed by another 10 minute period of silence, another of the two music pieces, and a final 10 minutes of silence. The order of the music was chosen at random so some patients heard Coltrane first and vice versa.
The results were then compared to people without epilepsy, finding that the level of brain activity when listening to music was much higher for both groups, but the patients with the neurological disorder were found to ‘synchronise’ more with the songs within their temporal lobe. This effectively means a slow rhythm within music could be used to give a calming effect to an epileptic’s brain.
“We were surprised by the findings. 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,” said assistant professor of neurology Dr. Christine Charyton. “We believe that music could potentially be used as an intervention to help people with epilepsy.”
The study concludes that certain types of music could be used alongside traditional epilepsy therapy to help prevent seizures from occurring in people with the condition.