Background: Acquired brain injury (ABI) can result in impairments in motor function, language, cognition, sensory processing and emotional disturbances. This may severely reduce a survivor's quality of life. Music therapy has been used in rehabilitation to stimulate brain functions involved in movement, cognition, speech, emotions and sensory perceptions. A systematic review is needed to gauge the efficacy of music therapy as a rehabilitation intervention for people with ABI.
Objectives: To examine the effects of music therapy with standard care versus standard care alone or standard care combined with other therapies on gait, upper extremity function, communication, mood and emotions, social skills, pain, behavioral outcomes, activities of daily living and adverse events.
Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Stroke Group Trials Register (February 2010), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library Issue 2, 2009), MEDLINE (July 2009), EMBASE (August 2009), CINAHL (March 2010), PsycINFO (July 2009), LILACS (August 2009), AMED (August 2009) and Science Citation Index (August 2009). We handsearched music therapy journals and conference proceedings, searched dissertation and specialist music databases, trials and research registers, reference lists, and contacted experts and music therapy associations. There was no language restriction.
Selection criteria: Randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials that compared music therapy interventions and standard care with standard care alone or combined with other therapies for people older than 16 years of age who had acquired brain damage of a non-degenerative nature and were participating in treatment programs offered in hospital, outpatient or community settings.
Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently assessed methodological quality and extracted data. We present results using mean differences (using post-test scores) as all outcomes were measured with the same scale.
Main results: We included seven studies (184 participants). The results suggest that rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS) may be beneficial for improving gait parameters in stroke patients, including gait velocity, cadence, stride length and gait symmetry. These results were based on two studies that received a low risk of bias score. There were insufficient data to examine the effect of music therapy on other outcomes.
Authors' conclusions: RAS may be beneficial for gait improvement in people with stroke. These results are encouraging, but more RCTs are needed before recommendations can be made for clinical practice. More research is needed to examine the effects of music therapy on other outcomes in people with ABI.