Boosting Cognition With Music in Patients With Disorders of Consciousness

Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2015 Sep;29(8):734-42. doi: 10.1177/1545968314565464. Epub 2015 Feb 3.


Background: Music listening conveys beneficial effects on cognitive processes in both normal and pathologic cerebral functioning. Surprisingly, no quantitative study has evaluated the potential effects of music on cognition and consciousness in patients with disorders of consciousness.

Objective: The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effect of music on cerebral processing in patients with disorders of consciousness.

Methods: Using bedside electroencephalographic recording, we acquired in 13 patients with disorders of consciousness event-related potentials to the patient's first name after either an excerpt of the patient's preferred music (music condition) or a continuous sound (control condition).

Results: The cerebral response to the patient's first name was more often observed in the music condition, than in the control condition. Furthermore, the presence or absence of a discriminative response in the music condition seemed to be associated with a favorable or unfavorable outcome, respectively.

Conclusions: These findings demonstrate for the first time that music has a beneficial effect on cognitive processes of patients with disorders of consciousness. The autobiographical characteristics of music, that is, its emotional and personal relevance, probably increase arousal and/or awareness.

Keywords: P3 event-related potential; auditory-evoked potentials; cognition; consciousness disorders; music.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Consciousness Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Consciousness Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Glasgow Outcome Scale
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music
  • Music Therapy / methods*
  • Names
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Young Adult