By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 12 May 2011)
Epilepsy, a common neurological disorder that triggers seizures, afflicts approximately 3-5% of people worldwide (Sidorenko, 2000).
There have been a number of intriguing findings regarding music’s effects on epilepsy. In a study of 29 epileptics conducted by Hughes et al. (1998), listening to a Mozart piano sonata caused a significant reduction in epileptiform activity. Perhaps most intriguing, even a comatose epileptic patient received anti-epileptic benefits from Mozart exposure.
Also worth noting is a case study of a young girl with a severe type of epilepsy whose seizures were reduced significantly after listening to classical music. Hearing Mozart’s music for 10 minutes of each hour throughout the day reduced the total number of seizures the girl suffered from 9 in the first 4 hours to just 1 during the final 4 hours, and decreased the duration of attacks. Repeating the procedure the following day also reduced the number of attacks, so the effect was unlikely to be coincidental (Hughes et al., 1999).
Another fascinating study was conducted by Sidorenko (2000). Subjects included 22 epileptics who acted as a control group and 34 who received 1 hour per day of Medical Resonance Therapy Music (MRT-Music), a specialized therapy developed by classical composer and musicologist Peter Huebner.
MRT-Musc, rhythmically natural music that is believed to affect the central nervous system, was associated with the following benefits:
- Reduction in the severity and frequency of paroxysms in 80% of cases, compared to 20% in the control group
- 90% of patients reporting positive subjective states, compared to 35% in the control group
Although there haven’t been many music therapy studies that have focused specifically on epilepsy, it’s possible that other forms of music besides classical can also provide benefits.
While certain types of music appear to be beneficial for most people with epilepsy, those suffering from an extremely rare condition called musicogenic epilepsy have seizures when they hear certain music (Lemonick & Dorfman, 2000).
For more information about music as therapy and studies of the psychological effects of various musical genres including heavy metal, rap, country, and jazz, visit the Music Psychology page. For more health articles, visit the main Mind-Body Health page.
|Famous musicians who have suffered epileptic seizures include Neil Young, Lindsey Buckingham (of Fleetwood Mac), Adam Horovitz (of the Beastie Boys), and Prince.|
- Hughes, J.R.; Daaboul, Y.; Fino, J.J.; & Shaw, G.L. (1998). “The ‘Mozart Effect’ on Epileptiform Activity.” Clinical Electroencephalography and Neuroscience, 29(3), 109-119.
- Hughes, J.R.; Fino, J.J.; & Melyn, M.A. (1999). “Is There a Chronic Change of the ‘Mozart Effect’ on Epileptiform Activity? A Case Study.” Electroencephalography and Neuroscience, 30(2), 44-45.
- Lemonick, M.D., & Dorfman, A. (2000). “Music on the Brain.” Time, 155(23), 74.
- Sidorenko, V.N. (2000). “Effects of the Medical Resonance Therapy Music in the Complex Treatment of Epileptic Patients.” Integrative Physiological & Behavioral Science, 35(3), 212-217.