Music is an enjoyable leisure activity that also engages many emotional, cognitive, and motor processes in the brain. Here, we will first review previous literature on the emotional and cognitive effects of music listening in healthy persons and various clinical groups. Then we will present findings about the short- and long-term effects of music listening on the recovery of cognitive function in stroke patients and the underlying neural mechanisms of these music effects. First, our results indicate that listening to pleasant music can have a short-term facilitating effect on visual awareness in patients with visual neglect, which is associated with functional coupling between emotional and attentional brain regions. Second, daily music listening can improve auditory and verbal memory, focused attention, and mood as well as induce structural gray matter changes in the early poststroke stage. The psychological and neural mechanisms potentially underlying the rehabilitating effect of music after stroke are discussed.
© 2012 New York Academy of Sciences.