How Music Can Rewire the Brain

Music continues to prove its miraculous ability to heal in the recovery of former United States Representative Gabby Giffords. On January 8, 2011, Giffords, a strong advocate against gun violence, was shot in the head during an assassination attempt and mass shooting that tragically claimed the lives of six other individuals. Music has since assumed a central role in her path toward neurological healing, thanks to recent developments in research regarding neurologic music therapy. Brain trauma and damage of neural connectors caused Giffords to struggle with paralysis and aphasia, a condition that affects one’s ability to communicate.

A patient of music therapy, Giffords has revived her passions in playing French horn and singing, consequently recovering her motor skills, cognition and speech. Listening to music is a complex event that requires the comprehension of multiple different elements (such as timbre, intonation and pitch) and permeates throughout different regions of the brain. Neurological music therapy is therefore unique in its capacity to generate brain plasticity, which reconnects the links between different brain cells. As a testament to the impact of music on her recovery, Giffords has even taken to utilizing musical notation on the scripts of her speeches to aid in her delivery.

While interdisciplinary research in music and medicine currently remains in its early stages, the profound intersections between music and neuroscience prove to be more life-changing than ever. Read more on Gabby Giffords’ recovery here.

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