The Effect of Music Therapy in Patients with Huntington's Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial

J Huntingtons Dis. 2017;6(1):63-72. doi: 10.3233/JHD-160229.


Background: Music therapy may have beneficial effects on improving communication and expressive skills in patients with Huntington's disease (HD). Most studies are, however, small observational studies and methodologically limited. Therefore we conducted a multi-center randomized controlled trial.

Objective: To determine the efficacy of music therapy in comparison with recreational therapy in improving quality of life of patients with advanced Huntington's disease by means of improving communication.

Method: Sixty-three HD-patients with a Total Functional Capacity (TFC) score of ≤7, admitted to four long-term care facilities in The Netherlands, were randomized to receive either group music therapy or group recreational therapy in 16 weekly sessions. They were assessed at baseline, after 8, 16 and 28 weeks using the Behaviour Observation Scale for Huntington (BOSH) and the Problem Behaviour Assessment-short version (PBA-s). A linear mixed model with repeated measures was used to compare the scores between the two groups.

Results: Group music therapy offered once weekly for 16 weeks to patients with Huntington's disease had no additional beneficial effect on communication or behavior compared to group recreational therapy.

Conclusion: This was the first study to assess the effect of group music therapy on HD patients in the advanced stages of the disease. The beneficial effects of music therapy, recorded in many, mainly qualitative case reports and studies, could not be confirmed with the design (i.e. group therapy vs individual therapy) and outcome measures that have been used in the present study. A comprehensive process-evaluation alongside the present effect evaluation is therefore performed.

Keywords: Behavior; Huntington’s disease; RCT; communication; music therapy; quality of life.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / therapy*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music Therapy*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Psychotropic Drugs

Associated data

  • NTR/NTR4904