Effects of music on seizure frequency in institutionalized subjects with severe/profound intellectual disability and drug-resistant epilepsy

Psychiatr Danub. 2017 Sep;29(Suppl 3):399-404.


Background: Approximately one-third of patients with epilepsy continue to experience seizures despite adequate therapy with antiepileptic drugs. Drug-resistant epilepsy is even more frequent in subjects with intellectual disability. As a result, several non-pharmacological interventions have been proposed to improve quality of life in patients with intellectual disability and drug-resistant epilepsy. A number of studies have demonstrated that music can be effective at reducing seizures and epileptiform discharges. In particular, Mozart's sonata for two pianos in D major, K448, has been shown to decrease interictal EEG discharges and recurrence of clinical seizures in patients with intellectual disability and drug-resistant epilepsy as well. The aim of this study is to investigate the influence of Mozart's music on seizure frequency in institutionalized epileptic subjects with profound/severe intellectual disability.

Subjects and methods: Twelve patients (10 males and 2 females) with a mean age of 21.6 years were randomly assigned to two groups in a cross-over design; they listened to Mozart K448 once a day for six months.

Results: A statistically significant difference was observed between the listening period and both baseline and control periods. During the music period, none of the patients worsened in seizure frequency; one patient was seizure-free, five had a greater than 50% reduction in seizure frequency and the remaining showed minimal (N=2) or no difference (N=4). The average seizure reduction compared to the baseline was 20.5%. Our results are discussed in relation to data in the literature considering differences in protocol investigation.

Conclusions: Music may be considered a useful approach as add-on therapy in some subjects with profound intellectual disability and drug-resistant epilepsy and can provide a new option for clinicians to consider, but further large sample, multicenter studies are needed to better understand the characteristics of responders and non-responders to this type of non-pharmacological intervention.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Drug Resistance
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy* / complications
  • Epilepsy* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability* / complications
  • Intellectual Disability* / therapy
  • Male
  • Music Therapy*
  • Quality of Life
  • Seizures
  • Young Adult


  • Anticonvulsants